CHICAGO (MCT) — The sky hook has yet to be unfurled. However, Joakim Noah’s six-shooter pistols were getting fired and holstered often Saturday night in Minneapolis, more evidence that his unorthodox jumper is underrated.
As always is the case with the energetic center, though, his value goes far beyond numbers. Those are impressive enough thus far through three exhibitions at 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in just over 24 minutes.
But simply put, the severely sprained ankle that prematurely ended his playoffs last May is a thing of the past. And Noah is playing — and running the court — with confidence and purpose.
“I feel pretty good,” Noah said late Saturday in Minneapolis. “I feel I’ve been working really hard on my game. I’m still trying to feel comfortable out there. We have a lot of new faces playing within the system.
“I do feel like my running is good. I want to get better at sealing my man, things that have never been my strength. (Coach Tom Thibodeau) runs a power offense and I have to get better at things I’m not used to doing, like sealing and duck-ins.”
Noah, who would rather talk about the team than himself, has been open about not knowing how his ankle would respond after admitting it didn’t fully heal until a month before training camp. The good news is he has had no issues with the grotesque-looking injury.
“Yeah, definitely, (I was worried),” Noah said. “That was one of the reasons why I didn’t play in the Olympics. I wanted it to be right. I feel pretty good. I know that it’s only going to pick up, especially once the real games start.”
Once they do, it might be time to alter the Bulls’ three-headed monster nickname from the dynasty days to that of the two-headed variety. Don’t look now, but 15-year veteran Nazr Mohammed is averaging nine points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21 minutes, 39 seconds per game.
That’s 18.3 points, 19 rebounds and 2.3 blocks from the center position.
“I probably sat (Noah) a little too long before I put him back in in the fourth,” Thibodeau said in Minneapolis. “I think he lost some of his rhythm. He had a really good rhythm going. I wanted to get Nazr some more minutes.
“(Noah) came out very aggressive and I liked that. His rebounding and reactions to the ball were good.”
Perhaps the best part is that neither player sounds satisfied.
“I go out there and do whatever the team needs, whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Mohammed said. “I’ve been in some good positions to do some good things offensively. The positions we are in offensively puts me in offensive rebounding position, which I like.
“So I’m trying to better concentrate on my defensive responsibilities. There are some things I have to pick up, the way we help. I have to get the timing down. It’s nothing I’m worried about, but philosophies change from team to team. I want to be solid defensively.”
So does Noah, who eventually tired of questions about his game.
“It’s not about one person,” he said. “It’s about us playing as a unit.”