SAN FRANCISCO – Joakim Noah claims the left knee is fine.
The Bulls big man has made no public criticism of the Fred Hoiberg offense, no complaints about coming off the bench all season long, and feels like he’s bringing energy to the court.
Yet, Noah is lost.
“I have to figure it out,’’ Noah said, following the 106-94 loss to Golden State on Friday.
He has to do more than that.
The fall has been dramatic. There has been nothing casual about it. Two seasons ago, Noah was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, fourth in the MVP voting and averaged 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Sure, those numbers were inflated because former coach Tom Thibodeau had no choice but to run the offense through the versatile Noah, but his skillset was on full display on a nightly basis.
Knee surgery following the 2013-14 season was bad news for Noah, especially when sources informed the Sun-Times that the knee of the 6-foot-11 high-motor player was “bone-on-bone’’ and would be something he would have to deal with the rest of his career, but the expectations were he could still be an asset.
As Noah tried to figure out a routine that was best for the knee last season, he managed to average 7.2 points and 9.6 rebounds, and still had flashes of being that blue-collar piece to a championship puzzle.
The puzzle nowadays? What the heck happened to Noah?
In the 11 games he’s played in under Hoiberg, he’s gone scoreless in six of them. Through the two previous seasons, Noah went scoreless in just one game – a playoff win in Cleveland last year.
His player efficiency rating sits at 10. Two seasons ago it was a team-best 20.1.
“I guess be more aggressive,’’ Noah said, when asked what he needed to do to jumpstart his game. “It’s just frustrating right now not being able to help your team out [Friday night]. Disappointing, but just come back next game and do better.’’
Now to be fair, Noah’s role has changed drastically. Not only has Hoiberg asked him to be an energy guy off the bench, but has limited Noah’s offense in a way. This was the ultimate garbage man. A player who scored his points off of the missed shots of teammates.
Hoiberg wants him to look for a put-back if it’s there, but puts more emphasis on offensive rebounds being kicked out to the shooters.
“Right now as far as offensive rebounds we talk a lot about trying to look for the open guy on the outside,’’ Hoiberg said. “Obviously if you have an opening to the basket you take it, but Jo I think has done a good job of kicking it out to our shooters when he gets an offensive rebound, and that’s one of the things we talked about.’’
But Noah’s patience seems to be running thin in that unselfish department. Asked if his offense has suffered because of lack of confidence or lack of opportunity, Noah replied, “Both.’’
“I just got to be more aggressive,’’ Noah said. “I’ve got to be more aggressive offensively, and be up for my opportunities. Right now I’m not really sure where I can get them, but when they come I have to be ready and I have to be ready to score.’’
In the background of all of this is the fact that Noah is a free agent following this season, and his value is at an all-time low.
“Just have to keep working,’’ Noah said.
At this point, he has to do something.