Pro basketball

Joakim Noah's commitment to defense pays off for himself and Bulls

2014-04-21T18:00:00Z 2014-04-23T23:08:21Z Joakim Noah's commitment to defense pays off for himself and BullsAl Hamnik, (219) 933-4154
April 21, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

It's taken a while for the love-hate relationship between Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and starting center Joakim Noah to subside.

An all-business, tough nut versus a young free spirit makes for water and oil on most NBA rosters.

Thibodeau and Noah have fortunately moved beyond that and the latter earning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award on Monday certainly helped.

"Tibs and I have definitely had our hard times, up and down," Noah said. "I remember one day we were working out at the Berto Center and he was putting me through a real grueling workout. I told him if we weren't winning games, I'd really, really hate you.

"He said: 'Trust me, Joe. I feel the same way about you.' I'm just thankful we've won more than we've lost."

After finishing fourth in last year's balloting, Noah collected 555 out of a possible 1,125 points -- including 100 out of a possible 125 first-place votes.

Indiana's Roy Hibbert and the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan finished second and third, respectively. The voting among NBA writers and broadcasters ended Thursday.

The ninth overall pick out of Florida in the 2007 draft, Noah is only the second Bull to win the award, joining guard Michael Jordan in 1988.

"I want to thank Joe for sabotaging his (draft) workout so he'd fall and we could get him at 9," Thibodeau joked.

Noah helped Chicago hold opponents to a league-low 91.8 points per game this season while ranking second in field-goal percentage allowed at .430.

Individually, he was sixth in defensive rebounds (618), eighth in defensive boards per game (7.7), ninth in blocks (121) and sixth in rebound average (11.3).

"He's gotten better every year we've had him and there's more to come," Thibodeau said.

"This is a team award and it wouldn't be possible without Kirk Hinrich, the old man, running the whole court," Noah added. "I appreciate my team for handling all the adversity we've been through and not letting up.

"I'm so proud of that. It's bigger than the award."

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