CHICAGO — Joakim Noah is one former Bull who never enjoyed prosperity in New York. But he’s thrilled to see his former head coach Tom Thibodeau and former Bulls teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson thriving.
Before ceremonies for “Joakim Noah Night’’ on Thursday at United Center, Noah saluted his past compadres for their work in New York.
“Thibs is a great coach and to see guys like Taj and Derrick in New York, I’m really happy for them. Great guys. I see how Taj is moving around — not just on the court, but in the [New York] community. I’m really proud of him. That’s crazy he was my son. And now he’s like an ‘OG’. Derrick, I’ve seen these guys really take on leadership roles and doing it New York and see those guys doing it well. … I’m really excited for them.’’
Noah, who retired last year, is living in South Florida and not eyeing a coaching gig, though he played for two good ones: Billy Donovan, with whom he won two national championships at Florida, and Thibodeau, with whom he hooked up for multiple playoff runs.
“To be a coach, you have to be a little bit sick,’’ Noah said before the Knicks’ 104-103 win over the Bulls. “When you’re not feeling it you have to motivate players to get the job done. That’s a tough job. At the pro level it’s too hard.’’
One reporter piped up: “So you’re calling Thibs sick?”
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“Thibs, he’s sick for sure,’’ Noah said. “I love him. It’s great for him to be at this game. Thibs and coach Donovan are two father figures to me. Two guys I learned a lot from. Thibs always told me, ‘Get your house in order.’ Thibs is the coach I spent the most time with — workouts, hardest workouts of my life. And he … was always asking me, ‘Do you have your house in order?’
“And I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Now I understand what that means. It’s something that resonates for me every day. Do you have your house in order? There’s a lot of life lessons in basketball.’’
Wednesday night, Noah and his former Bulls teammates gathered for a party at a Chicago restaurant. Thibodeau dropped in.
“He’s totally at peace,’’ Thibodeau said. “He should be. He gave everything he had to the game. There’s nothing left. That’s the way you should go out. I’m really happy for him.’’
The Knicks are still paying Noah $6.4 million this season as part of his stretch-provision waiver in 2018.
Nerlens Noel missed a fifth straight regular-season game Thursday after missing all four preseason games. But it sounds very likely he’ll return at New Orleans on Friday. Thibodeau said Mitchell Robinson, who had nine points and six rebounds in the Knicks’ 104-103 win over the Bulls on Thursday, will remain the starting center.
The Bulls had their splashy free-agent offseason by signing PG Lonzo Ball, SF DeMar DeRozan and G Alex Caruso. At the trade deadline last season, they added Nicola Vucevic.
The Knicks never made an offer for Ball, deciding he might not be ready to quarterback a playoff team.
Asked if he was impressed by the Bulls’ aggressiveness, Thibodeau said: “It’s the way the league is built. You look at the addition — not only for the Bulls, but a number of teams added players. Then you try to study and analyze on the impact it might have for your own preparation and how you’re going to play against them the following year. That’s the beauty of the league.’’
MSG Network put out a statement further condemning Comcast in its dispute with the cable company that is shutting out some Knicks fans in New Jersey and Connecticut: “Comcast shut off MSG Networks nearly a month ago but is charging its Xfinity customers in the Tri-State area more than $10 a month for content they’re not getting. Comcast shouldn’t get to pad its bottom line at the expense of frustrated sports fans — it’s time to ask when they’ll do the right thing and restore the channels or rebate all their customers’ money. Xfinity customers should call Comcast now and demand an answer.”