Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 1/19/12

When Joakim Noah was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, I was one of his biggest critics. I said he didn’t have the basketball skills to play in the NBA, all he had was height and athletic ability. Since then he’s proven me wrong countless times by showing that hustle and determination go a long way. He’s been a great asset for the Bulls and silenced the people who said he wouldn’t be.

One guy who’s always been a big fan of Noah’s is now changing his tune. Any time the guys on TNT talk about the Bulls, Charles Barkley will chime in with how much he loves Joakim Noah. Barkley has to be one of Noah’s biggest fans, but he says this year is different.

‘‘His energy level is not the same,” Barkley said. “I have loved how hard he has worked, but he has not played up to his capabilities this year. Even though Chicago has a great record, he has not played like he has played the last couple of years.’’

Barkley may have just been reacting to Noah’s poor performance in the Bulls’ loss to the Grizzlies on Monday where he scored only 2 points and had 5 rebounds. Noah still leads the team in rebounds and his determination looks as strong as ever. Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau seems pleased with the way Noah is playing.

"Jo’s fine,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He played well the last couple of games before the Memphis game [12 rebounds against the Celtics and Raptors]. The Memphis game, we played poorly as a team. But I like the way [Noah’s] playing. He’s reacting to the ball a lot better.’’

It’s definitely something worth keeping an eye on. Noah’s fire and passion have literally willed him to make good plays and help the Bulls win. If that spark starts to fade, he may start to become more of a liability than an asset.

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