I caught up with Joakim Noah at media day for an interview. As with most of my media day interviews, not all of the questions are mine, and the fight for Joakim's attention was far more fierce than most of my interviewees. For a guy who's probably walking a bigger landfield than most players at media day, Noah remains open, happy, and accommodating. He probably spent more time with the media than any other player there but remained friendly and outgoing throughout the whole process. He was one of a few players who seemed genuinely happy to speak with you.
Don't get me wrong, everyone there was professional and accommodating, but Noah seemed to genuinely enjoy taking his time to answer questions even with the press members he doesn't know well yet.
Physically, Noah definitely looks as though he's bulked up some since past seasons though Bulls fans may have been hoping for more than the five to six pounds he said he gained in the interview, but I think it's a legit five to six pounds unlike many of the off-seasons where guys say they add 15 pounds and look basically the same. I'd wager there's a good chance that his weight gain is about as good as anyone really gets over the summer, but he just didn't exaggerate it like most players do.
The best thing about Noah is that you have a real feeling that he let's you in. When he gives you an answer about teamwork or wins over individual achievement, it doesn't feel like a precanned message. It feels like he believes it, means it, and lives it.
I had the distinction of being the first media member daring enough to disrupt his escort from the NBA photo section to the WGN one, and kicked off the interview by asking what it was like working with David Thorpe this year.
It went very well. David Thorpe is someone who loves the game a lot. He's from the university of florida my school. He's someone been watching me for a long time. We talked a lot during the regular season and he felt like he could help me. It was good to go to Sarasota and see his operation at IMG. I think he helped me a lot and I worked on a few things there that will help me during the season.
What will we see differently this year?
I feel I learned a lot from last year. I need to be more of a threat offensively. I feel stronger and I feel more experienced. I've been watching a lot of film. I'm going to try to do things a little bit differently this year.
Confidence means everything in sports, second half of the season you really came on what does that do for you this year?
I feel a lot more confident. I've been watching a lot of film and lifting a lot of weights and working on my game. I'm really excited for this season.
You said you're going to try to be more offensive this year, what would you like to add to your game this season?
I think I just need to be more aggressive. Just be more aggressive. Duck in more. Be more of a threat. I've been working on my game a lot, my hooks, my jumper. I just need to be more of a threat out there.
How about the team?
I think guys ahve been working really hard. I think we're excited. Obviously we lost a lot of scoring with Ben Gordon, but everybody understands that they need to step up offensively and especially defensively. If we can get more stops we'll be more dangerous on the fast break.
Fast break is key here because you have a young nucleus, do you think you'll run more this year?
That's the plan, but to do that we need to get defensive stops and get a better defensive foundation. I think last year we did pretty well, but if we can step up our defense we'll be even better.
What's your take on going to London for a preaseon game?
It's really exciting. I have a lot of family and friends for whom it's not that far. They can just get on the train and come and see me. That will be exciting because a lot of my family hasn't had the opportunity to see me play since I was 12 or 13 years old.
Did you learn about your own capabilites and how you can play under pressure?
It felt good to play in that environment on the big stage. I feel confident and that series helped me with that, but this is a new year. I worked hard in the off-season, and I look forward to playing this year.
Does it feel like it's too soon to be back already?
No, not at all. It's been a long off-season. We work for these moments and it's finally here.
What do you think about Brad and John coming over in the trade?
They're both great guys. Especially Brad, he's helped me out so much. I'm just happy to have him here from the beginning of the season is going to be such a huge plus to have a vet like that who's been through so much. Every since he's gotten here, I've been saying how much he's helped.
What's your realistic goal offensively for yourself?
I don't know, I'm not trying to put too much pressure on myself. Just be more aggressive. My goal is just to be more aggressive. I'm not setting specifical goals. I just want to help win basketball games.
How do expectations change after that playoff series now that you won't sneak up on teams?
I don't know, we've dealt with expectations before, we had them two years ago, but we didn't do too well. I think at the end of the day it's about going out there and producing and coming out ready. Expectations don't change anything.
How is your relationship on the court with Derrick Rose maturing?
The more we play together, the more comfortable we are with each other. The more we know what we can do. Obviously Derrick's a great player. I know he's very excited to get out there on the court and so am I.
You have a very carefree image a lot of the time, do you want your image to change to become a hard working basketball player?
I've always been a hard working basketball player. I've always worked hard. I know I'm different so people are quick to judge me, but I don't really care.
What's the most entertaining thing you've done this off season?
I did a lot of entertaining things this off-season (chuckles).
I had a really great time at Lallapalooza. I had a lot of fun this off-season, but at the same time I worked really hard. I think it's going to pay off this season. I'm excited, I always have a great time in life, I enjoy my life, people know that. Howeer, I'm someone who always works really hard on the court.
Has it become more real that Ben Gordon's not here?
No, it's always been real to me that Ben Gordon wouldn't be here. It's tough because Ben Gordon was a big part of what we did last year. It's hard for me, because Ben Gordon was a good friend of mine both being from New York we hung out a lot. However, it is a reality, he did what's best for him and I understand and respect that. Now it's on us to step up, and we have enough here to do something good.
How much stronger have you gotten this season and how have you expanded your game?
I put on about 5-6 pounds. I've been lifting a lot of weights. I feel a lot stronger. I've played a lot of pick up. I'm just really excited about this season, I went to IMG for a couple of weeks, worked out a lot, I'm just really excited.