Joakim Noah was candid about what the last few years have been like for him.
“Not good” is the best way to sum it up.
There were injuries, surgeries, a 20-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, an ugly breakup with the Knicks, and then some serious thoughts about retirement.
On Wednesday night, the once-beloved former Bull was wearing a Grizzlies jersey in a 122-110 loss to the Bulls at the United Center but still doing what he loves to do — and doing it on his own terms in a comeback season.
“I just didn’t want to leave the game like that,’’ Noah said. “I feel like I worked too hard my whole life to end it like that, and I wanted to. I hadn’t had peace on the court in years, and I wasn’t enjoying playing basketball anymore, and I’ve always been somebody who loved basketball, loved to compete, loved to be in the locker room with my teammates. So I wanted to find that again, and I worked my ass off to be in this position.”
His return to the UC wasn’t exactly a triumph. The Grizzlies dropped to 23-36 on the season thanks to a career-high 37 points from new Bulls acquisition Otto Porter Jr., and Noah didn’t have the best night individually, either. He was in foul trouble early and finished the game with eight points and three rebounds.
It wasn’t the best memory for Noah to leave town with, but he made it clear his Bulls experience was filled with memories of he and his former teammates at the top.
“We all have our different journeys,” he said. “Those guys are my brothers for life. I think that there’s even championship teams that don’t even have that kind of bond. It was a special bond. I’m just happy to see my old teammates doing well. To me, that’s almost as important as winning a championship.”
The current Bulls have more going for them than nostalgia. Wednesday’s victory improved their record to 14-44 heading into the All-Star break. More important, the win ended an 11-game home losing streak, which was a franchise record.
“I was wanting to be very aggressive early,” said Porter, who arrived in a trade with the Wizards last week for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. “Get to my spots, taking my time and just continue to be aggressive throughout the game.”
Dunn and done
Guard Kris Dunn missed the finale before the All-Star break after taking a hard fall in Monday’s loss to the Bucks, bruising his back. Coach Jim Boylen didn’t expect the injury to carry on after the break; Dunn is expected back next week.