Even from a computer screen thousands of miles away, Joakim Noah's frustration was apparent.
Noah's French national team lost on Tuesday night, 76-53, to Spain in an exhibition in Almeria, Spain. The contest was played as a tune up for both squads as they prepare for EuroBasket Lithuania 2011.
I only caught the final 20 minutes or so of the game, but it was enough to pick up a few different things regarding Noah's game and his conditioning over the summer.
1. It appears as if he's kept himself in good shape: It has been well-documented over the past few weeks that the French team sent Noah home after his initial physical before the squad's training camp to receive more treatment on an ankle injury he sustained in late March. Noah returned to Chicago to have the ankle examined then spent the next couple of weeks training in California in preparation for his return to the team. He looks to be in solid physical condition and the ankle, which hobbled him at various points throughout the playoffs (although he would never use it as an excuse), doesn't appear to be giving him any problems, which should make Bulls fans extremely happy.
2. The tornado is back: At the beginning of last season, Noah was taking and making his "tornado" jump shot more than at any other point in his career. He had confidence in the unorthodox jumper and it became a reliable staple in his game. After he tore a ligament in his thumb in late November, though, he rarely took the shot. When he returned to the lineup toward the end of the season, he continually passed up open looks and was hesitant when the shot presented itself. If he can continue to improve upon the success he had early last season, the "tornado" will become an important part of his game and will open up the floor for the rest of his teammates.
3. A post presence: One of the biggest knocks on Noah' since he came into the league has been his lack of a true post-up game. He has worked to improve this area of his game, but the results haven't shown up during the regular season. As one of the leaders of the French team though, Noah will be relied upon to provide some interior offense. If the exhibition against Spain is any indication, Noah will get plenty of opportunities to showcase himself in that area and show people what he can do.
Noah and the French team open up the European Championships on Aug. 31 in Lithuania against Latvia.