I love basketball players that play with energy.
Whether it’s on the defensive end of the floor, hitting the offensive boards or running the floor hard; if you play with energy, people will take notice.
If you have been watching the NBA playoffs, you have heard coaches talk about “playing with energy,” or, “we gotta bring more energy,” and the sad/disturbing quote, “we didn’t play with energy.” Some call them clichés or coach-speak; I’m here to tell you they are gospel!
This past Saturday ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy made an eye-opening, but not surprising statement on basketball. “
Joakim Noah is NOT one of those players JVG is talking about. Last night Noah’s energy willed the Chicago Bulls to a 90-82 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in game two to even the series at one. With his performance, Noah joined my “Soldiers” crew in the playoffs joining Chris Anderson, Kenyon Martin, Gerald Wallace, Matt Barnes, Tyler Hansbrough, Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka.
“Just trying to affect the game. Just find a way,” Noah said.
Like usual, Noah was all over the floor. Finishing at the rim, setting screens, snatching offensive boards, helping on defense with deflections and blocking shots.
“Noah plays the game for the love of it,” said Bulls teammate Nate Robinson. “He plays with his heart on his sleeve.”
And it shows Nate!
Resolve. Hustle. Determination. Guts. Hunger. Grit. Heart. Bring the juice. Call it what you want. These are just a few words to describe a player’s responsibility when they step on the floor.
“A guy who gives you less than what he has to give is one, telling you what he thinks of you (coach) and two, telling you what he thinks of himself,” said Pete Carril.
You don’t have to worry about Noah giving all he has.
“Jo’s giving us everything he has,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Whether you agree or not, it’s the player’s responsibility to come to play every night. But when is this desire formed? Here’s Noah’s high school coach, Billy McNally from Poly Prep.
In my two years coaching Jo without question what stands out most to me was the way he was in practice. He was incredible. His desire to improve and his attention to detail. I think what makes him a great player is that first of all he is a great person. His will is so strong and his unselfishness so genuine. Jo would go all out in the smallest drill; a warm up, free throws, whatever. He was so receptive to every small teaching point.
Long before “motor” became a buzz word. Jo was a terrific “buy in” guy. We had a great culture and an awesome core group of guys at Poly (Prep) when he joined us. Jo was all about the team right away.
When I see him play now I say what I’ve always believed; he plays the game, within the game, within the game. If you don’t go hard he makes you pay.
I think the way Jo plays has been great for the game and kids who want to know how you should play.
Like him or not, Noah has always played hard and with energy; he knows no other way. Noah is one of those players you hate to play against but would love to have on your team.
“Overall, our team played passionate basketball. That’s a plus because it was ugly in that Game 1,” said Noah.
Basketball players that play with energy love to compete. Players who don’t play with energy are too cool. You want guys that compete. Too many players go through the motions and will not do the little things to help their team win. Too many people in basketball put too much emphasis on stats. It’s about time we reward and recognize players like the group of soldiers. Maybe Five Hour Energy can sponsor this group. But make no mistake, these guys don’t need that crap. They play hard because they care. It’s their continuous effort, that keeps them on the floor.
Chasing and diving after loose balls. Crashing the offensive glass and moving your feet on defense. Bouncing off the bench when the coach calls your number, sprinting up and down the floor in transition and showing enthusiasm; all traits connected to successful players.
After the game at his press conference Thibodeau said Noah, “Willed it.”
A player’s “Will” is tied into passion and energy and it usually equals success. Last night Noah scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked two shots and handed out three assists.
I scratch my head and often wonder why more players don’t play with energy? There’s a quote about playing hard that I have memorized, “If you don’t have the effort, and you’re not enthusiastic, you won’t be efficient!”
ESPN and TNT go bananas over dunks. I wish they would spend the same amount of time on “hustle plays” as they do when guys dunk. It doesn’t take a talent or a top 10 national player rating.
“Just found a way,” Noah said last night in the press conference following Chicago’s road victory.
Finding a way is a trait energy guys possess. Finding a way is what “winners” do on a daily basis.
“Losers” are lost when it comes to “finding a way.”
Noah has been battling plantar fasciitis, an injury he refuses to use as an excuse. Energy guys don’t use excuses. If you have never had this injury, take a sharp object and stick it in your arch and rip it to shreds (Just kidding, don’t do that). Trust me though, it is painful.
By the way, Jo needs to do something about those Le Coq Sportifs he wears on his feet.
I love watching Noah play the game at both ends of the floor. The former Poly Prep standout is a player that every coach would love to have on their team. When Noah steps on the floor, he empties his tank. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Noah’s bench behavior. When the Bulls are playing well and he’s resting on the bench, he’s the first one up to cheer them.