The trade of Luol Deng last Tuesday was hard on both the players and coaches for the Bulls, but probably no one was more so affected by the trade than Joakim Noah, who might have had the closest relationship to the 10-year veteran in the locker room.
The All-Star big man, whose play is characterized by high energy and emotion, finally broke his silence in addressing the move after the team won its fifth straight and third consecutive after Deng’s departure.
“The trade definitely hurt,” Noah said. “A lot of people say ‘this is a business’ and all of that, but this game is more than a business to me. I put everything that I got into this. I feel like Lu was the same way, so (the trade) was hard for me to digest. That’s just my perspective and my side of the story. Everybody has a different job. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not mad at the organization. It’s just my brother isn’t here anymore, so I just needed a little bit of time to digest that.”
Noah said it’s hard to process the move – that helped the Bulls save over $20 million in salary and luxury tax – and understand how it helps the club since in the short term, the team sent away a two-time All-Star for nothing.
While his attitude in wanting some time to get his thoughts together before speaking had become a bit overblown, his play certainly hasn't suffered, as he posted his team-leading 14th double-double of the season in Saturday's win over Charlotte with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Since the trade, he's averaging 13.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2 blocks and 5.6 assists.
"I just think that all of this adversity makes me stronger; makes me stronger as a person and as a player," Noah said. "I’ve never been so hungry. We’ve been through a lot. Derrick’s (Rose) injury was really hard. Lu not being here is really hard, but we’re going to go out there… there’s no tank in this team and we’re going to go out there and make this city proud."
He also said that general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson did speak with him and told him “There’s no tanking,” despite the move seeming to help weaken the roster and with other rumored deals involving Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy.
“I don’t have to be happy with the decision (management) made, but everybody has a job to do,” Noah said. “It’s hard to say because at the end of the day, that’s my brother and he’s not here anymore. That’s the way I see it. (Management sees) the game differently. They’re not out there on the court. They don’t know how much Lu meant to me, personally. Like I said, I’m not mad at anybody."
While the trade weakened the team – already last in points scored (91.1) –in removing its leading scorer and best two-way player, with Noah having to take on an even bigger leadership role now, expect nothing but consistent effort going forward.
“We’re just going to go out there and give it everything we got. There’s no tanking, none of that," Noah said. "We’re going to go out there and give 150 percent and (being a Chicago Bull), we want people in Chicago to be proud of that. Even if there’s four guys hurt, no matter who’s out. We’re going to go out there and give 150 percent win or lose and I know people in the city would be proud of that.”