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Noah Thinks His Big Contract Affected His Early Bad Play

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Feb 3, 2012 5:00PM

There isn't a pro athlete to step on a court or field who didn't dream of that big payday... the one that ensures they, their kids and their kids' kids are set for life. Too often, they don't live up to the expectations that come with eight and nine figure deals. Usually, it's because they feel they can finally slack off on the preparation or are having too much fun spending their dough.

Surely Bulls center Joakim Noah, the child of a professional tennis star/pop star and a supermodel, isn't as susceptible to newfound riches as his peers from lesser backgrounds.

Is that what caused Noah's slow start to the season? While he agreed to a new $60 million extension last year, the bigger sums actually began appearing on his paychecks this season. And Noah thinks it had an impact on his game, though not in the typical ways. In an interview with the Tribune, the Bulls center suggested that thinking too much about the money has changed the way he has been playing. He told the Tribune:

Yeah, no question, I thought about that. Sometimes you feel like because you're given so much money you're expected to do things. That's not the right mentality to have as a player.
I have to play my game. I have to have fun out there. If I don't, I'm not the same player.

So was Noah trying to do too much because he felt he needed to in order to earn his keep? Was that the reason his numbers on the court were down while the numbers in his bank account were up?

Whatever the cause, he seems to be working on correcting his problem. Through the first 12 games of the season, Noah recorded just one double-double — an 11 rebound, 13 point performance against the Detroit Pistons. However, in the last 12 games he's recorded seven double-doubles. In general, the energy he's known for bringing to the game has returned in a way that was not apparent earlier this season. Said Noah, "In the beginning of the year, I was overthinking a lot. I was going through a lot of things personally. I feel a lot more comfortable now. I have to stop overthinking and just play."

Despite Noah's slow start and a rash of injuries to a number of starters and key reserves, the Bulls still hold the Eastern Conference's best record at 19-6. If Noah continues to make progress toward bringing the energy to his play that we've seen in the past, then the rest of the NBA had better take notice. The Bulls just might become impossible to stop come June.