Bulls Draft Central 2007 | No regrets for bullish Noah

No regrets for bullish Noah

Florida forward/center was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 NCAA Tournament Final Four as the Gators won a second straight national title

Bulls Draft Central

Joakim Noah:
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Joakim Noah
“I want to improve my jump shot, my running, my strength, everything really," Noah said. "There isn’t one area I can’t improve, even with areas that people say I do well in.”

Posted June 9, 2007 | By Adam Fluck

If you were Joakim Noah, would you regret not going pro last year? On one hand, he probably would have been no worse than a top-three pick last summer and by now he’d have a season of NBA experience under his belt. On the other hand, he went back to school for his junior year, played another season for one of the game’s best coaches and won a second straight national title. Kind of a win-win, isn’t it?

While he won’t likely be a top-three selection in this year’s class, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Noah will almost certainly be a lottery pick in the June 28 NBA Draft. Should he last until the 9th spot, Bulls GM John Paxson might see him as a nice piece—a long, athletic and ultra-competitive piece, no less—to help out in Chicago’s low post. Even though he won’t bring a ton of scoring to the power forward position, Noah could be one of those guys who will make an impact either way. Bulls.com talked with the former Florida standout after his Berto Center workout with Spencer Hawes on Friday about winning consecutive NCAA championships, working on his offensive game, and how he might fit in with the Bulls.

Bulls.com: How did you feel your workout went?

Joakim Noah:
“I think I did alright, but I think I could have done better. I’m just really excited about my situation right now. I really enjoyed meeting the staff and I liked the workout. I feel like this is a place where I could definitely get a lot better. I love the tradition here. It’s a team and an organization that definitely understands what it takes to win a championship and I feel like winning championships is what it’s all about. The last two years of my life have been really exciting and I’ve learned so much. I’ve got to experience things that not a lot of people get to experience. I just hope and pray that one day I can be in an organization where winning a championship is all that matters and everyone is on the same page. I think the Chicago Bulls are right there. This is a dream come true to be here today. It’s ironic because growing up in New York, there were really times that I hated the Bulls. But right now, I feel like this would be such a great situation for me and I’m really excited. You can’t control where you get picked, but I enjoy it here and it’s a place where I could definitely get better.”

Bulls.com: What other teams have you worked out for thus far? Will future workouts be against Spencer Hawes?

“Just Minnesota, with five more scheduled over the next couple weeks. I think Spencer is going back to Seattle and he’s got a few more workouts scheduled too. We’ll see what happens.”

Bulls.com: Did you enjoy the competition of going against Hawes in your first two workouts?

“Definitely. I’m not someone who is going to say I don’t want to workout against this guy or that guy. I think that’s soft and a GM with the right mentality will see that. At the same time, you never know what is going to happen.”

Joakim Noah and Yi Jianlian
"You don’t know how he’s going to look running up and down the court with nine other guys, putting a body on him and talking trash to him," Noah says of Yi Jianlian, who he trained with in Los Angeles.

(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Bulls.com: If you had the chance to go back and turn pro or return to school last year, would you do anything differently?

“No way. I learned so much. We came back for one goal, and that was to win another national championship. Doing that was something unique and special and definitely priceless. If it had been about money, I definitely would have left last year. But to me, it’s more than just that. What we did was something that will be remembered forever. It was such a great feeling to get back in to that locker room and know that everyone who doubted us were now debating whether or not we should be remembered as one of the best teams ever. It felt so good, and it was so satisfying. At the same time, though, as a player you can’t ever be satisfied, because when you are, that’s when things go wrong.”

Bulls.com: Describe the group that you played with and your experience at Florida. What made those players so special that you all stayed in school and went on to win back-to-back titles?

“I think if any of us had decided to leave, we all would have left. There’s no question about it. Even if [Florida guard] Lee Humphrey hadn’t been a senior, it may have been a different situation.”

Bulls.com: How did Billy Donovan help your progress as a player?

“What I love about Coach Donovan is that he’s a real guy. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything and he’s very passionate about the game; passionate about winning and all the right things. I really like that, and even though we’re very, very different people, he’s somebody that I learned a lot from the last three years. As a college player, I was able to experience so much, from a freshman playing six or seven minutes a game to getting all the attention we did after the first national championship and being under a microscope. There were a lot of criticisms and high expectations; everybody had something to say. I was happy to have a guy like Coach Donovan by my side the whole way. He was somebody I could really talk to, and you can’t have a relationship like that with every head coach.”

Bulls.com: Some people compare you to Marcus Camby, while others feel your more like Tyson Chandler. Is there an NBA player whose game you think you resemble?

“I don’t feel that I’m similar to anybody. I think I’m very different from a lot of players and I like to think of myself as someone who can help a team win.”

Bulls.com: Yi Jianlian is a relative unknown to most fans, but you had an opportunity to train with him in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. What’s your impression of him?

“He’s very skilled. We didn’t get to play against each other, though; it was all drills. Just by watching him shoot and do things like that, he could be the top pick in the draft. But you don’t know how he’s going to look running up and down the court with nine other guys, putting a body on him and talking trash to him. He’s the total package when you’re watching him in drills—he can shoot the ball, he can put the ball down on the floor, and he’s pretty athletic.”

Joakim Noah
Noah on possibly coming to Chicago: "You can’t control where you get picked, but I enjoy it here and it’s a place where I could definitely get better.”

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Bulls.com: What do you feel your position will be at the NBA level? Do you think you’re strong enough to play power forward?

“I think so. I think I’ll end up being a four. Right now I’m at about 227 pounds, which is where I was in college. Right now it’s kind of hard to hit the gym and add weight because it’s difficult to get in to a real routine. You can’t lift weights every day when you’re on the road all the time, but it’s something I know I need to work on.”

Bulls.com: What elements of your game do you feel you need to address the most in order to be a success at the pro level?

“I want to improve my jump shot, my running, my strength, everything really. There isn’t one area I can’t improve, even with areas that people say I do well in.”

Bulls.com: How was getting to know Tyrus Thomas on Thursday, when you spent some time with him watching Game One of the Finals?

“He’s a cool dude. I am just happy to be here, getting an opportunity to show the Bulls what I can do. I wish I had shot the ball better today, but it’s OK and I’ll keep a positive mindset. Hopefully it was enough to please those guys. I told Tyrus we needed to do an LSU-Florida match-up, because he never beat the Gators. He’s a great guy, though, definitely a competitor who works really hard. I liked him in college, too. I’m a fan of his no matter what happens.”

Bulls.com: What’s your impression of John Paxson and Scott Skiles now that you’ve had the chance to meet them?

“I really enjoyed getting to know them. We went to dinner on Thursday night and got a feel for each other. I was definitely interested in what they had to say. They had me do a psychology test and I asked Coach Skiles if that affected his coaching. He laughed and said, ‘No way.’”

Bulls.com: How do you think you would fit in with the current Bulls team?

“They’ve got a beast in Ben Wallace down low. People talk about how they need low post scoring, but when I look at the Chicago Bulls, they’re a guard oriented team that is all about drives and kicks and being able to knock down that 15-footer. I love their style of play. They run up and down and they’re very athletic. With Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich, they’ve got a talented group of guys who can score. It’s a great situation and I’d be really excited about the opportunity. But I don’t know what’s going to happen with the draft so I’m keeping an open mind. It’s not my choice like in college when they offer you a scholarship.”

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