Report: Bulls want to re-sign Joakim Noah rather than Pau Gasol

It's becoming clearer and clearer that the Chicago Bulls and big man Pau Gasol will likely part ways this summer. In somewhat surprising news, the same might not be true of the Bulls and their other upcoming free agent in the frontcourt, center Joakim Noah.

From the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson:

Though front-office meetings have yet to finalize the Bulls' Plan A for this offseason, there is strong internal desire to re-sign Noah on a short-term deal. Noah long has been a favorite player and ambassador of Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Executive vice president John Paxson drafted Noah, and their bond is genuine.

It will take work, not to mention money, to win back Noah, who disliked the false story Fred Hoiberg spread at the start of the season that he volunteered to come off the bench. He then disliked playing just 20 minutes per game and not finishing them more.

But Hoiberg had started to play Noah more before his first shoulder injury in December. And Noah remains invested enough in the team to question Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose for their silence at the April 3 team meeting, according to several people present.

Hoiberg's bold decision to start Nikola Mirotic over Noah seemed as much to try to placate the proud veteran that Gasol is as to implement his offensive vision. That never materialized, and Mirotic didn't seize his opportunity.

Gasol, who will turn 36 in July, has received praise from coach Fred Hoiberg for playing through knee trouble. This is his 15th season, and he has averaged 16.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Given how Chicago has struggled for much of the year and limped toward the finish line, a split would make sense for both sides. Gasol can surely chase a championship elsewhere.

On the surface, the same would appear to be true for Noah, who has been a Bull since being drafted in 2007. Injuries have limited him for the past two seasons, and Hoiberg drastically reduced his role. If Chicago wants to turn Jimmy Butler into a leader, perhaps it would be best to completely break away from the Tom Thibodeau era. That would mean letting Noah go and even looking into trades involving Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.

You can understand the Bulls' preference to keep Noah around, though. As well as being a front-office favorite, he's been popular among Chicago fans because of his intensity on the court and his work in the community. He's the sort of personality you want in the locker room, and the last time he was fully healthy for a season, he won Defensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in MVP voting.

There are a couple of roadblocks here:

1) Re-signing Noah would be risky because of his injuries. That's why the Bulls reportedly want a short-term deal. Noah, 31, might want a longer contract. He should at least test the market.

2) Chicago might not be the best situation for Noah, even if the team offers him a good deal and a bigger role. No one knows exactly what the roster will look like next season, but it's clear that major changes need to be made. Noah is a competitor and he hasn't been back to the conference finals since 2011. He might want to go to a franchise where winning is more of a sure thing. 

It's too early to know whether Noah and the Bulls will be able to come to an agreement. Picturing him in another uniform is pretty weird, though.

Joakim Noah is headed for free agency.  (USATSI)
Joakim Noah is headed for free agency. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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