SAN FRANCISCO -- Joakim Noah doesn't look like himself on the basketball floor right now.
The emotional big man has been struggling since the beginning of the season to find a rhythm after new head coach Fred Hoiberg decided to keep him on the bench to start games. Noah wasn't happy about the move but was steadfast in his feeling that he would do what was best for the team. Almost a month into the season, the difference in Noah's game isn't just that his minutes are down, it's that he looks lost on the offensive end.
The former All-Star is averaging just 2.5 points a game in just 20.5 minutes a game and has been held scoreless in two of the last three contests. When asked whether his issues were a lack of confidence offensively or a lack of chances offensively, Noah answered honestly.
"It's both," he said. "I just got to be more aggressive. I got to be more aggressive offensively and look for my opportunities. Right now, I'm just not really sure where I can get them, but when they come I have to be ready and I have to be ready to score."
The problem for Noah is that he is playing with no self-assurance on the offensive end of the floor, something that was apparent dating back to last season. That observation is backed up by the numbers. Noah is shooting a career-worst 31.6 percent from the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He has taken just 38 shots in 11 games (3.5 per game), which is also a career low. He is only averaging 1.2 free throw attempts a game and is just 4-for-13 from the line on the year. That is the second-worst percentage (30.8) of any player with at least 10 free throw attempts.
The bad news doesn't stop there for Noah and the Bulls. Out of those 38 shots, all have come from within eight feet of the hoop and all have been inside the paint. He is 0-for-7 on the year from outside the restricted area.
Hoiberg hesitated for a moment after Friday night's loss to the Golden State Warriors when asked whether he was concerned about Noah's offense or lack thereof.
"I don't think so," Hoiberg said. "Jo, right now, on offensive rebounds, we talk a lot about trying to look for the open guy on the outside. Obviously, if you have an opening to the basket, you take it. But Jo, I think, has done a good job of kicking it out to our shooters when he gets an offensive rebound, and that's one of the things we talk about."
Noah's issues on the offensive end appear to have seeped into other areas of his game, as well. He is turning the ball over at a higher clip than at any other point in his career. As noted by ESPN Stats & Information, "When looking at turnovers per 36 minutes and per 100 possessions, he is averaging nearly a full turnover more than in any previous season."
Noah's teammates know that he is struggling, but they just aren't sure exactly what to do to help him out of his funk.
"Try to give him positive messages and words," Bulls big man Pau Gasol said. "I know he's going through a struggle right now, but just try to stay positive and play his game. At the same time, it's not easy there. We're all trying to adjust to the new situation. We're all trying to sacrifice part of our games for the benefit of the team or just to follow the lead of the coaching staff, and that's where we're at. Hopefully we'll try to do the best we can."
It's never a question of effort with Noah. It's also not a question of health; he has said over and over how much better he is feeling this year compared to a season ago, when he was coming off left knee surgery. But the numbers -- and the eye test -- suggest that Noah is struggling worse than he has in years. His player efficiency rating is just a 10.0 this year. Last year, he set a career low at 15.3. He came into this season with a career average of 18.0.
"I guess be more aggressive," Noah said when asked what he needs to do to get back on track. "It's just frustrating right now, not being able to help the team win tonight. Disappointing. But just come back next game, just do better."