The heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, was grieving over the loss of his mentor Tyrone Green. Noah has been away from the team and missed practice on Friday. He is on an open-ended bereavement leave, but is expected to return to the Bulls on Saturday.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Green passed away at the age of 63 last week and played an influential role on not only Noah, but several other New York youth basketball players over the years as well. They include WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw, Speedy Claxton, and NBA champion Lamar Odom.
For the most part, Green played a tremendous role in the life Noah. Noah has often times credited coach Green for teaching him the fundamentals of basketball as a young player, and Green was also a father figure to him.
But the biggest impact Green played on Noah is his toughness and tenacity on the court. Noah, always known for his ferocity during games, would probably be a different player today if not for Green. Noah finished the 2013-14 season with career-highs in points (12 per game), rebounds (11 per game), and assists (five per game). He is also well on his way to winning awards, including Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-Defense, and First Team All-NBA.
It will be interesting to see how Noah bounces back upon his return, but there is no doubt that he will be playing with a heavy heart when the Bulls host the Washington Wizards for Game 1 on Sunday. However, expect Noah to also bring his usual tenacity, heart and hustle when they tip-off — all attributes that coach Green passed down to him.