Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah bonded by Bulls battles over years

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Kirk Hinrich on Joakim Noah: 'He just wanted to win' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Kirk Hinrich doesn’t do a lot of interviews. Ask him about himself and get ready for crickets.

But ask him about playing with and befriending Joakim Noah? Get ready to hang for a while.

In advance of Thursday's "Joakim Noah Night," where old friends Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Tom Thibodeau will visit the United Center with the Knicks on a night the Bulls will honor the passionate big man's illustrious career, NBC Sports Chicago caught up with Hinrich.

The feisty guard spent six-plus seasons with Noah, including many memorable moments.

NBC Sports Chicago: What made Joakim a good teammate?

Hinrich: Obviously, he was a great guy first of all. Second of all, the effort he put forward, his energy and his ability to pick up his team. When Jo plays, he plays with an energy that everybody wants to try to match. The one thing that stood out to me right away when he got here was he just wanted to win. That’s the type of guy you want on your team. It didn’t take long to figure out who Jo is. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s very comfortable in his own skin.

NBC Sports Chicago: You were there in 2007-08 for his rookie year, which had some rough moments for him.

Hinrich: Once you were able to get him there on time, there were huge strides made (laugh).

I think at the beginning, he had the physical attributes and the skill level to be the type of player he became. And he had the mindset. It was just picking up the nuances of how to do it in the NBA in terms of not missing assignments, being able to be counted on every play. Once he picked that up, he was as good of a playmaking, energy big man as there was for quite a long time there in his prime.

NBC Sports Chicago: That said, were you surprised at the level he reached in 2013-14 when he won Defensive Player of Year and finished fourth in MVP voting?

Hinrich: I wouldn’t say surprised. We just relied on him a lot more. Obviously, Derrick (Rose) was hurt (torn meniscus in October 2013) and we lost Lu (Deng) to trade (in January 2014). A big advantage for us was to let him make plays and try to do it collectively.

Offensively, he was huge for us in terms of making plays and bringing energy and setting screens and doing what he did best. And then obviously on the other end, he was as intense as there was. He held himself accountable. He held others accountable. His numbers were great. But everyone knows what Joakim brings isn’t necessarily in the stat sheet.

NBC Sports Chicago: Do you have a favorite on-court moment?

Hinrich: Oh man, it’s hard. I guess it’s probably gotta be when he went the full length of the court and dunked on (Paul) Pierce (in 2009 playoffs).

IncrediBull Playoff Performances: Joakim Noah's iconic moment

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That stands out to me just because of that series and everything. But there are so many. It’s amazing. The season is such a grind.  You know he’s tired. We’re tired. And he found a way inside himself to bring that energy and winning attitude every night. That’s what I respect most about him. I just appreciate him as a teammate and as a friend as well. We got pretty close over the years.

More on Joakim Noah night:

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