After being outrebounded 96-62 over the first two preseason games, Asik and Noah combined for 21 of the Bulls 48 boards during Friday night’s 107-96 win over the Wizards.
While the pair still has plenty of kinks to work out, it's clear they are slowly figuring out how to play with one another. For Asik, he's also figuring out very quickly that Noah isn't like most of the other players he's played with in the past.
"He asked me for some gel the other day in the locker room," Noah said after Friday’s win. "I was like, ‘Come on, Omer, do I look like I wear gel?’ He started laughing."
While Asik, the team's 24-year-old Turkish project, continues to learn the ins-and-outs of an NBA locker room, it's clear after seeing him play this week that he is improving with every game. When he plays with Noah, the duo gives the team the type of monster presence that most teams can't match.
In short, JOMER (that's Asik and Noah's first names combined: pronounced "Jo-Mair") has a chance to be a beast down low this season for the Bulls.
"I felt good about that," Thibodeau said of the pair's presence on the floor. "I like the size, and Joakim has shown he can play the four. He gets you moving. Two seven-footers on the floor. The paint gets shut down, it gives you rebounding, and Joakim's a better shooter than most people realize."
The Bulls’ version of the "Twin Towers" lineup is already starting to appeal to Derrick Rose and the rest of his teammates.
"You saw it tonight," Rose said with a chuckle. "It's going to be crazy out there, especially when we get [Boozer] in the mix. Omer and Jo are going after everything. No matter how many fouls they get they're going to try to tip balls out to hustle. That's what we need on our team. We're just trying to be this grimy team where we don't care about our stats or anything. We're just trying to go out there and trying to win."
The jury is still out as to whether a lineup featuring Asik and Noah at the same time can do that, but Noah likes their chances, especially while the team waits for Boozer's broken right pinky to heal.
"I think we have the potential to do some good things together, but I think we need to do a better job in understanding what we need to do,” Noah said. “I messed up a couple of defensive schemes because I'm just used to doing what the five does, compared to what a four would do. So I just got to get more comfortable with that."
At times, Asik still looks lost on the floor, but Thibodeau is convinced that he is only going to get better as the games roll along.
"He's been terrific," Thibodeau said of Asik. "He's tough, he's got size. He's not afraid to mix it up inside. He's still learning as he goes, but he gives you great effort every day. He's got to continue to do that."
Despite the culture shock, the language barrier between Asik and his teammates isn't as big as you might think.
"It's funny," Noah said. "Because for somebody who acts like they don't speak English, he picks up on everything. If Coach is talking to him, he understands everything, a lot quicker than I do."
It's that work ethic that makes both Thibodeau and his players believe that Asik is going to be able to contribute quickly.
"He pick things up really fast," Noah said. "I think he's going to get better after every game. I think he helps me as well, just with his length and his physicality, just going up against somebody like that in practice every day, who's really hungry to get better every day. I think we're going to help each other."
If Friday night was any indication, Noah is exactly right.