Ever since one of his closest friends on the team, Luol Deng, was traded last Monday, Joakim Noah has remained silent when it comes to speaking with the media. But after the Bulls 103-97 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats – the team’s fifth straight since the New Year and third straight since the trade – Noah spoke for the first time in five days.
“The trade definitely hurt, but we have to move on,” Noah said. “I feel confident in this team. We're working really hard. A lot of people say this is a business and all that. But this game is more than a business to me. I put everything I have into this. And I feel like Lu was the same way. Everyone has a different job. I'm not mad at anybody, I'm not mad at the organization or anything like that. It's just that my brother isn't here anymore. I just needed a little bit of time to digest that.”
Noah said that despite the pain he felt from the trade -- and the difference in the player's perspective versus management -- general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president of operations John Paxson both spoke to him and assured the center that the organization is still committed to building a team that can compete for an NBA Championship.
“At the end of the day, that's my brother. And he's not here anymore. That's the way I see it," he said.
"[Management] is not out there on the court; they're not on the plane. They don't know how much Lu meant to me personally. But like I said, I'm not mad at anybody. I don't have to be happy with the decision that they made. Everybody has a job to do. At the end of the day, trading Lu is something I won't understand. But I have to live with it. And I have to go on the court and give everything I have."
And in giving everything he has, Noah said he plays for the people in Chicago who cheer for the Bulls despite the adversity the team has face due to injuries and roster turnover.
“The guy selling the newspapers on the streets, cold outside, sees me driving by, he's excited. He's like, 'Let's go Bulls. Get it done tonight.' I feel like I play for that guy," Noah said. "When I look at the top of the arena, teams call timeout, and I see that guy who looks this big and he's up cheering and jumping up and down, that's the guy I play for. To me, that's what the city represents. There are a lot of hardship and adversity in the city. When I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team."