The pain was audible and the atrophy was visible when Joakim Noah’s shoulder came out of his socket in early January last season, ending his last year with the Bulls.
Deep down, it was possible he knew it was the end, and he knew it was time.
“I think it was time for change,” said Noah after the New York Knicks’ shootaround Friday morning at the United Center. “There’s no question about that. It seems like (The Bulls) is a happy group. They enjoy being around one another. That’s good.”
It wasn’t lost on Noah the fact that he and Derrick Rose’s return to Chicago took place on the same day as the Chicago Cubs’ parade after 108 years of futility.
“It’s a little different, a little different,” Noah said. “I see the people in Chicago are in a good mood today for a lot of reasons. It’s an exciting time in Chicago right now.”
Having signed with the Knicks for $72 million this past offseason, he’s talked to Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott in recent days in anticipation for his first game against the team that drafted him in 2007.
“I wish everybody well,” Noah said. “I’m not here wanting the Bulls to lose or anything like that. Just tonight though.”
Having mixed emotions is expected for a longtime former staple, but the reaction from the Bulls crowd will likely be one of appreciation as opposed to anything else. A new father having a new team, the emotions will likely hit the emotional player at some point Friday.
“That’s what battling is all about,” Noah said. “I know I fought really hard in this building every time I put on that Bulls uniform, and that means a lot to me. I have no regrets. It was a special time in my life.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Noah’s last season in Chicago was a forgettable one for a number of reasons. Not being on the same page with Fred Hoiberg about his benching early in the season set a bad tone for Hoiberg’s credibility, and Noah battled shoulder injuries and struggled in his new role of coming off the bench in his 29 games.
“I look back on it and I was definitely frustrated. There was definitely a lot of adversity going on there,” Noah said. “Now I can look back at it and see where things went wrong. It’s not about blaming one person. Everybody in that locker room is good people. It’s just shit happens. It’s a locker room. At the end of the day, the things I remember the most are good memories from everybody. I have no hard feelings towards anybody.”
When asked to elaborate on what went wrong, Noah was slightly bemused as opposed to agitated, and stated the obvious.
“S**t, come on man. Please. It went wrong,” he said. “We didn’t make the playoffs. Everyone was disappointed. It was a team that had high expectations. You guys know where it went wrong. You guys were there every day. Right now, I’m just happy to be on the court. It’s a blessing to play basketball again.”