"I have to find a way to be more effective," Joakim Noah said on Thursday while trying to explain his lack of production thus far in the season. In the game versus the lowly Washington Wizards, Noah found himself again on the bench during the entire fourth quarter.
As usual, Noah had company. Veteran forward Carlos Boozer joined him in what is fast becoming a huge problem for the Chicago Bulls—one that will plague them later.
As many recall, Boozer signed a huge five-year $75 million contract, and Noah inked for five years and $60 million last offseason. For the Bulls, the signings have translated to wins, yet without the maximum return from both frontcourt starters.
Noah is an energy player who happens to have some solid basketball skills. He truly is in complete control of his contribution to the team. Early in the season, foul trouble limited what he brings to the table. Right now, I see a player who has seemingly lost interest in his duties. There is a particular perception about Noah that, deep down, I do not believe he will accept for one moment.
His detractors agree that, with his offensive limitations, he is no more than a slight upgrade over Cleveland's Anderson Varejao. During the summer, Noah worked on his post-up game, and the results are mixed. While he has added a couple of moves to his arsenal, the confidence isn't there to match the hard work. The whistles and missed shots are taking their toll, and something must be done soon.
If not, you'll have a lost player, just as Noah was at a loss for words once he was asked what he could do to improve.
Carlos Boozer's case is slightly different. He nonchalantly gave his response to several questions.
Boozer is an offensive force when he his firing on all cylinders. Overall, he has improved a little, which makes his fourth-quarter benching puzzling.
It is evident that Boozer has lost his explosiveness. Not to be confused with the Clippers' Blake Griffin, athletically, at any point in his career, but rarely did you see Boozer miss dunks the way that he did on Wednesday.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau must be taken to task here. Sure, the Bulls have a 10-2 record with his frontcourt rotations, but he has to figure out how he can get more from Noah and Boozer.
Sitting both of them for the majority of the fourth quarter will backfire, and it could happen sooner rather than later. He has to trust his "bigs" to make a positive impact during the waning minutes of a game. The Miami Heat series is over, the punishment has been received, and now it is time give his frontcourt another chance at finishing games.
The Bulls need to build chemistry with Boozer on the floor and—to a lesser degree—Noah. In the former, you have their only true low-post scorer. Point guard Derrick Rose needs to find him early so that Boozer feels involved more. While some will suggest that is coddling him, what is the harm in stroking the ego of a player if the ultimate reward could mean a championship banner?
Without Boozer, the Bulls do not get past the Heat. It is time to forgive his transgressions and play him when it matters most.
The same goes for Noah. Get him back involved late in games, or risk losing a key component to anything the Bulls are looking to accomplish. As the past has taught us with him, when he is inspired, the Bulls are victorious.
Failure to reinstate Noah and Boozer will affect team unity going forward. For a team that stresses how their strengths are a based on the result of harmony, it's hard to imagine them winning without it.