Joakim Noah’s season was full of highs and lows. With the 2011-12 on its way Noah wanted to put his injury riddled past season behind him. With his brand new contract and health intact fans and foes alike wanted to see what he was made of.
At the beginning of the year, he struggled to come into his own playing alongside Carlos Boozer and he even admitted that the pressure of playing with that new contract worth $60 million was starting to get to him at times. Noah’s struggles in the early part of the season were harsh, especially compared to how well he had played at the beginning of last season. He was frustrated on the court and it showed. He even seemed hesitant to hit his “tornado” jump shot after dealing with injuries throughout last season that included his thumb surgery. Before the All-Star Game he played in 34 games, averaged 29.9 minutes per game and had 9.5 points per game. He looked sluggish and that left many Bulls fans wondering what would happen next. But all that changed when he started to hit his peak in the last two weeks of the regular season.
But the All-Star break in February helped Noah get focused on bettering his numbers and overall performance. Noah looked more comfortable on the court. With his confidence back he was able to find his own offense. His postseason games were outstanding and Noah gave the Bulls his all averaging almost 14 points, 10 rebounds and 30.9 minutes a game before he badly sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the 76ers series. But his best game came on February 22nd against the Milwaukee Bucks when he had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has said that the Bulls take a lot of their cues from Noah. When he plays with energy, the team typically does well. But when he doesn’t, his teammates also play with that same lack of passion, especially early in games. “He’s got to be ready from the start,” Thibodeau said after the Bulls lost on April 8th to the New York Knicks. “He’s got to bring energy. When you’re an energy player, you’ve got to bring it every game. He’s shown that when he plays with great energy he’s terrific and when he’s playing with great energy, we’re playing with great energy. But it wasn’t only him, it was our entire team.” Noah really came around this year and despite the rocky start and playoff injury the good news for Noah and the Bulls was that he was starting to play like he deserved that $60 million. If he can stay healthy he has shown that he is capable of having a great season and can help take this team to the playoffs and beyond.
Final Grade: B-