UF's Donovan says Noah still learning

The Bulls and rookie Joakim Noah are playing at Orlando tonight.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Published: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 11:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 11:57 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said he could have predicted some growing pains for Joakim Noah in the NBA.

"The dynamics are always different at the NBA level," Donovan said. "They just are. I think it's something he's going to have to learn as a player."

But even Donovan was a little surprised that Noah, his former center who helped lead Florida to back-to-back national titles the previous two seasons, was suspended for two games by a vote of his Chicago Bulls teammates for yelling at assistant coach Ron Adams during a Friday shootaround.

Donovan said he had left a message for Noah on his cell phone and sent a text message, but had yet to hear back from the 2006 Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.

"I'd like to hear where he's coming from on his end, just exactly what's going on, and not to say that he's right or wrong," Donovan said at his weekly Monday news conference. "But I think the one thing these guys have to understand is that when you become a professional, it's a job, it's like going to work there. There are times all of you show up to work and don't enjoy being around somebody, don't like somebody but you still are supposed to be a professional and go out there and do your job.

"I know what Jo's biggest problem is. Jo just wants to win. And when he sees things that are getting in the way of winning, Jo has a way to become somewhat demonstrative or loud or speak his opinion. I will never believe that his suspension has anything to do with him being selfish. I think his suspension, if anything, has to do with him wanting to win."

Noah, Chicago's first-round pick and the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft, was joining a Bulls team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals a year ago. But the Bulls have struggled to a 14-21 start that's already cost former coach Scott Skiles his job.

Noah made few friends in the locker room when he openly questioned Chicago's heart and desire following his first NBA game. For the season, Noah is averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.3 minutes off the bench.

Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said tardiness issues also played a role in the suspension. Noah yelled back at Adams after Adams was riding him for forgetting plays.

Noah had some tardiness issues at Florida. Donovan didn't start Noah for the exhibition opener last season because Noah continually showed up late for classes during the fall semester.

Donovan said he addressed the tardiness by having Noah run early in the morning.

"After getting up a few times at 5:30 a.m., that gets old after a while," Donovan said. "Jason Williams was probably the only guy I ever had that got up at 5:30 in the morning and said, 'Coach, how about if I never go to school and get up at 5:30 a.m.

"It never got to that point with Jo. I think that eliminated it. But it's so different. They don't deal with that stuff. If you're late, you get fined. If it's a continual thing, you get fined more money."

Donovan said Noah is probably dealing with the adjustment of playing with older players away from a campus atmosphere.

"I talked to him a lot about that, going into it, and I think one of the reasons why he came back his junior year was that was something he was worried about, that it's not college, it isn't college, as much as you can try to create a college atmosphere," Donovan said. "These guys are men, are professionals, they are being paid to do a job, and sometimes these guys' jobs are to score 25 points and some guys' jobs are to grab 15 rebounds, some guys jobs are to give assists, and in that job you get paid for how you perform."

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