DEERFIELD, Ill. – As Joakim Noah starts to describe his unorthodox jump shot, you get the sense that he could be describing himself as well.
"Unusual and a little different," Noah said after practice on Sunday afternoon. "But you have to have an open mind sometimes."
When it comes to the development of Noah's offensive game, specifically the mid-range jumper that he has been consistently hitting over the last week, that open-mind mentality is important. His jumper isn’t the prettiest looking thing in the world, but it's getting the job done.
"A lot of people say it's ugly," the Chicago Bulls center said. "I like to think it's artistic."
Noah's ability to hit that shot has taken his offensive game to another level this season. He scored a career-high 26 points against the Boston Celtics on Friday night and it's clear that teams are going to have to start paying closer attention to him on the floor.
While Noah's confidence in his new shot may surprise some people, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau clearly isn't one of them. He spent countless hours in the gym with his 25-year-old center this summer, working on Noah’s form and release point, and from the outset of training camp he has been the one telling Noah to take the shot when he's open.
"Quite honestly, he hasn't [surprised me] because I saw him shoot all summer and consistently he was knocking that shot down," Thibodeau said. "My thing is, as long as you're working that hard and it's going in, then I don't have a problem with you shooting it if you're open. It looks a little different, but it goes in. That's the bottom line."
Noah understands that his new shot opens up the floor even more for his teammates and he takes pride in the amount of time his new weapon took to develop.
"I feel pretty confident," he said. "I don't want players to play off me like that. I feel like I worked on it pretty hard with Thibodeau in the off-season, and to me there's nothing better than making a 15-footer because a lot of people told me my whole life that I wouldn't be able to shoot it. So it feels great knocking it down."
The jump shot is just one aspect of the offensive metamorphosis that Noah has undergone. While his post moves are still developing under the tutelage of Thibodeau and big man coach Ed Pinckney, he is certainly not the liability around the basket that he was when he came out of college.
"He can shoot that [jumper] and then if you close on him he can blow by you," Thibodeau said. "And his jump-hook game is very effective inside. He's active on the offensive boards, he knows how to move without the ball, he's scoring different ways, and I think in transition he's running the floor great."
With Carlos Boozer still out due to a broken pinky, Noah realizes that he has to continue to pick up the offensive slack. If no one else is going to step up and help Derrick Rose consistently on the offensive end, it might as well be him. After all these years, Noah is just glad he stuck to what works as far as his jumper is concerned, even if it looks a little strange at times.
"A lot of people have tried to change my shot, but it's never really stayed consistent," he said. "I just stuck with it. At the end of the day, I started with a pretty low release, which doesn't work to my advantage, but I'm not trying to shoot over anybody, if I have an open shot, I'm going to take it."