Fred Hoiberg implies Joakim Noah suggested bench role, Noah denies

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Joakim Noah publicly campaigned to start next to Pau Gasol.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg opted for Nikola Mirotic instead.

So, it was a bit strange to hear Hoiberg say the rotation was Noah’s idea.

Hoiberg, in a Q&A with Zach Lowe of Grantland:

How was the conversation when you told Joakim he officially wasn’t going to start?

Jo actually came to me and talked to me about that. He said, basically, “I’ve always played well with Taj.” He said he thought Niko and Pau played very well together, so let’s go that route. It was actually Jo that started the whole conversation. He came to me. That says a lot about him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

https://twitter.com/NickFriedell/status/660118300526026752

My best guess: Hoiberg was just trying to make Noah look good, and Noah wasn’t looking for the false praise.

Another possibility: Noah initiated the conversation knowing what was coming regardless, but that doesn’t mean he explicitly asked to come off the bench.

A longshot: When he said he played well with Taj Gibson, Noah meant he and Gibson should start.

This really isn’t a big deal either way. Noah seems fine coming off the bench, and I doubt Hoiberg’s statement offended him.

But Hoiberg is a rookie NBA head coach for a team many expect to advance deep in the playoffs. His communication skills bear watching.