In Praise Of Joakim Noah

Gangly, awkward forward does the little things we love

Last Sunday, Moneyball author Michael Lewis wrote the story basketball geeks will be fawning over until it's made into a book. In his ever-widening quest to expose the inefficiencies of professional sports, Lewis profiled Rockets forward Shane Battier, discussing Battier's statistically bereft game, and explaining why, before advanced basketball statistics and detailed film breakdowns, it was impossible to see what made Battier so successful. He looks like a below average player. Yet his teams always seem to win.

The Bulls don't have such a player. Few compare to Battier's quiet success. But what the Bulls do have is Joakim Noah who, while not a great player, remains underappeciated for a variety of unscientific, ill-conceived reasons.

How's this work? It starts with the aesthetics of Noah. He's a gangly, weird player. His shot is not just ugly but actually difficult to watch. He runs like his ankles hurt, or like his feet are slightly off-kilter. He screams a lot. He is spindly and easy to push around. Noah's game is a crime against the aesthetics of basketball.

But what Noah does do well is turn his weaknesses into strengths. He's not a good shooter, so he rarely shoots. He's not a well-built player, so he relies on his length to disrupt opponents. He doesn't jump well, so he works to establish positon as close to the hoop as possible. He does all the little things: he runs the floor hard, he boxes out, he takes care of the basketball, and so on.

These are not major accomplishments, and again, Noah is far from a great player. But what they are is what every NBA team needs: defense, rebounding, hustle, and, perhaps most importantly, efficiency. Noah doesn't waste possessions looking for his own putrid offensive game. When he scores, it's the product of hard work on the offensive glass. The Bulls need that work just as much as the Rockets need Shane Battier.

Derrick Rose can play the role of star. It takes something entirely different to play as Joakim Noah does.

Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger hunkered down in Lincoln Park. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, MOUTHPIECE Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site,

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