The Chicago Bulls saw their seven-game winning streak and sole hold of the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 playoff seed end at the hands of the New York Knicks Sunday night, but that didn’t stop Joakim Noah from offering up one heck of a silver lining:
Another milestone for Noah. His 415 assists this season marks the 10th most by a center in a single season in the history of the NBA.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 14, 2014
As far as exclusive company is concerned, it doesn’t get much more rarefied than this: Of the nine seasons in which a center has tallied more assists than Noah, three of them have been by the hand of Wilt Chamberlain; three more by longtime NBA staple Sam Lacey; and one each by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Vlade Divac. (Per Basketball-Reference.com.)
Consider this the latest, greatest hit in what’s been a career year for the versatile Noah, who continues to chart career highs in points, rebounds and assists for the playoff-bound Bulls.
Without point guard Derrick Rose to facilitate—and in many ways keep afloat—Chicago’s 27th-ranked defense, Noah’s abilities as a passer have been pressed into perpetual duty.
Here’s CSN Chicago’s Kendall Gill with a short breakdown of what makes Noah such an impressive offensive orchestrator:
Following his team’s recent 102-87 loss to Noah’s Bulls—a game in which Noah recorded his seventh career triple-double—Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman had this to say about Chicago’s high-post maestro, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
If you're a good passer, you see the game and the play developing. He has that instinct. He also has good size. He can deliver the ball to guys. Brad was terrific. Vlade and Chris were terrific. It's just a unique time when you have a player like that.
It stands to reason that, while Noah’s raw assist numbers might go down upon Rose’s return, the playmaking experience gained will be more than worth the statistical slide—not to mention a fantastic boon to the Bulls’ overall prospects.
For now, Noah’s only concern is getting the Bulls through their first-round matchup and into the Eastern Conference Semifinals where, if the seeding holds true, they’ll likely meet up with their old enemies, the Miami Heat.