The Summer of LeBron in the NBA is officially underway. In fact, it got underway the minute LeBron James ripped off his Cavs jersey after a game six loss against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Of course New York has been mentioned with Cleveland, New Jersey, Miami, Los Angeles, and even Chicago. Chicago could be a very good destination for LeBron. The Bulls have the young talent and the cap space to lure LeBron. Chicago already has one of the best young point guards in the NBA with Derrick Rose, and the ultra-energetic Joakim Noah would play well off LeBron in my opinion. When you combine that with Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, and Luol Deng, the Bulls could become a very attractive landing spot for LeBron this summer. I admit that it would be very tough for the King to have to play in the shadow of Michael Jordan and live up to Jordan’s legacy, but in terms of basketball talent, the Bulls make a lot of sense for LeBron in 2010. Joakim Noah joined ESPN Radio in Chicago with Waddle and Silvy to talk about why someone would come to Chicago in the offseason, what clicked in his head to make him a better player, and also what went wrong with the Bulls this year that caused Vinny Del Negro to lose his job.
Let’s say a guy like me needed to be sold on the advantages of a city like Chicago vs. a city like New York, and the best place to set up shop for the next five years on my job.
What would you tell me about Chicago and what would you tell me about New York?
“I think the difference is that we are going to win a lot more ball games over there (Chicago). The future is really bright in Chicago. It’s really exciting to be a part of it, and I think things are looking pretty good.”
When did the light really go on for you because we’ve really remarked and admired the progress you’ve made over the last year and a half?
When did it all just click for you?
“I’m getting a bit more organized and I realized that getting stronger is definitely something I’ve needed to do in the off season. I’ve made strides in that area. You know we just got to keep improving and I understand what I need to do to become a better player. Everything is really exciting right now. We have a great opportunity coming up, this next year is going to be some pretty exciting stuff, so I know I’ll be ready for it.” Joakim, where did your work ethic come from? A lot of people say it came from a privilege, situation, a famous dad, a glamorous mother. You lived all over the world. What makes you get in the weight room? What makes you work on your game?
What makes you the player you are now?
“Even though I had a famous father, I was never a pampered kid and when you come from New York City, people around, especially when you’re playing basketball, they can feel that, if you are a pampered kid. So I always had to act tougher than I really was. I came to New York when I was 13, so I had to put on a front a little bit. I definitely learned it from my father. My father was someone who worked really hard at what he did and I just love the game so I’m just doing whatever I can to become a better player.”
Did you feel weird that there was so much controversy over every minute of basketball that you played?
“No, to me it wasn’t even controversy. Things in a family, you know things happen. I think we’re in a situation where things get magnified and blown out of proportion. Everybody has their opinions and at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong. It just happened and you’ve got to move on.”
With the benefit of hindsight do you think it was handled correctly or would you have benefited from sitting out for a longer period of time?
“(Laughter) At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. It happened, we’re out of the playoffs, it’s summertime, what happened, happened. Like I said I have a lot of love and respect of (John) Pax(son), and I have a lot of love and respect for Vinny (Del Negro) as well. At the end of the day it doesn’t change the way I feel about those guys.”
I know there’s a lot you can’t address right now due to the league tampering rules, but can you tell the Bulls fans listening out there right now whether or not you believe the Bulls will be a championship contending team at this time next year. “It’s exciting stuff and I’m really putting in all the work to try and get to that level one day. We definitely have the chance and the opportunity to do that, depending on the pieces that we get. I know one thing, we’ll definitely be a better team next year and that’s exciting. If we keep improving and keep improving and one day will be able to be contenders and play for a championship, that’s a beautiful thing.”