When Joakim Noah became visibly exhausted and asked out of Monday’s Jazz/Bulls game before the first quarter was even done, the Utah announcers quickly picked up on it and bashed Noah accordingly. Despite starting, Noah ended the night having played just 16 minutes — the same as Aaron Gray — and sat the entire fourth quarter
Without an obvious Sean May-type weight issue on his hands, you wonder why Noah would be so out of shape just one month into his second pro season. (I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but if you had to predict which NBA player was going to pull a Josh Howard first, Joakim would be up there.) At Florida he was known for his high-energy style, where he made up for a lack of polished skills with sheer effort and a never-ending motor.
This hints at a bigger issue in Chicago, though. As much as Derrick Rose is battling to keep the Bulls relevant, the cracks are coming to the surface. Luol Deng is playing with about as much fervor as the cast of “Paris Hilton‘s BFF,” and Tyrus Thomas isn’t far behind him. Ben Gordon has that contract-year thing hovering over everyone’s head. And did you get a sense from the team’s subdued “celebration” of Larry Hughes‘ game-winner that there may be some locker-room chemistry issues? For rookie coach Vinny Del Negro, things like players appearing bored, players not getting along, and now, players being out of shape, are tell-tale signs that sometime soon, some s*** is about to hit the fan, and that he needs to get his team in check ASAP. Del Negro can start with something simple, like getting his 23-year-old center in basketball shape.
If you were an NBA coach, how would you deal with players who are out of shape?