Joakim Noah may have belted out his last primal scream in a Bulls uniform.
Noah has been telling teammates in recent weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction,’’ according to a Bulls player.
The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the tension that developed between the two early in the season, when Noah lost his starting job. The player insisted that Noah didn’t bring up the rift as an explanation for his desire to bolt.
What was offered up, however, was the notion that there seems to be a complete mistrust multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading that charge.
According to the player, former coach Tom Thibodeau was always able to shield the players from the front office, having them buy into the idea that it was “us against them.’’
However, Hoiberg was deemed a Forman hire, so that wall was very blurry.
What the players have been trying to figure out in building their relationship with Hoiberg has been exactly how tied the coach is with Forman.
“They might not be as tight as everyone, including Gar, thinks,’’ one league source said of the Hoiberg-Forman relationship.
That remains a very important issue moving forward for this team.
“We know there’s at least one assistant [coach] that tells Gar everything that goes on,’’ the player said. “There’s a lot of guys that have a problem with that, and not just Jo.’’
A lot of guys aren’t about to hit the free-agent market, however. Noah is.
The 31-year-old is coming off one of his worst seasons since he came into the league as a rookie back in 2007, averaging just 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, before facing season-ending shoulder surgery after just 29 games.
The numbers told only part of the story, however.
Near the end of training camp, Hoiberg announced that Noah would be coming off the bench. There was a back-and-forth concerning if Noah volunteered for that, with the big man vehemently denying that scenario.
The Noah-Hoiberg relationship seemed to be mending before Noah went down with the injury, but the Noah-Forman bridge remains broken unless there is a complete change of heart.
Noah, who is one of the more charitable players in the entire NBA, had become so annoyed with Forman that he actually turned down a chance to help Bulls Charities earlier this season. According to the player, Noah was approached by Leslie Forman – Gar’s wife, as well as the VP of Bulls Charities – to take place in “some auction where he would have to ride around town with the winner or something like that.”
Noah didn’t like the way he was approached and pressured, so flatly said no.
“Not like Jo at all,’’ the player said.
There was no response from Noah after attempts were made to reach him on the matter. Forman also didn’t respond.
But that also pulls back another layer with the Bulls that rubs players the wrong way. The feeling is there is no accountability with Forman because of the relationship he and his wife have with team president and COO Michael Reinsdorf and his wife, Nancy.
Nancy is the president of Bulls Charities and works closely with Leslie.
“[Noah] represents a lot of things that we believe in,’’ VP of basketball operations John Paxson said in mid-April about re-signing Noah. “So we have an affinity for Jo. But we’ve got to talk, we’ve got to see where it goes.’’
It may have already gone.