Joakim Noah has touched before on his training sessions with legendary waterman Laird Hamilton during the last two offseasons.
Wednesday night, after Noah's exhibition debut, the Bulls' All-Star center went, well, more in-depth.
"You're underwater for a long time -- with weights," Noah said, smiling. "It's grueling. You're always very tired."
Noah's game is a distinct combination of energy and skill. His ability to run, catch, dribble and pass is rare for a big man and allows him to be an offensive force beyond his unorthodox jump shot. Special, too, is his ability to cover ground defensively and provide extra possessions with offensive rebounding predicated on quick, multiple jumps.
Noah credits Hamilton, whom he met through a mutual friend, for maximizing his potential.
"Those workouts have really helped me with my conditioning and jumping," he said. "In terms of getting in good work and putting no impact on your joints, it's great, especially for later in my career."
Noah said the workouts take place in a 14-foot deep pool outside Hamilton's house in Malibu, Calif. Smiling, Noah calls it a "very nice place to be." Presumably, that's when the workouts end and the camaraderie begins.
On his web site, Hamilton calls himself "a waterman," not a surfer. This is telling for someone influential in innovations like tow-in surfing, in which jet ski-riding assistants help Hamilton ride 60- to 70-foot walls of water.
"You make a mistake there, you can die," Noah said, expressing awe and admiration. "That's some serious stuff."
Listed at 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, the 49-year-old Hamilton has designed an underwater resistance training workout emphasizing breath control and functional movements specific to sport. Noah said enduring it has increased his lung capacity, recovery time and quick jumping ability.
"He trains a lot of people," Noah said. "He gives a lot of his time to athletes. He doesn't charge or anything. He just wants to see if his workout helps people in different sports."
Asked if Hamilton is intense while leading the workouts, perhaps like a certain Bulls' coach, Noah smiled.
"No, he's definitely not Thibs-like at all. Nobody is like Thibs," Noah said of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "Also, you can't hear anybody when you're underwater. That's one thing. But he makes sure you're doing the workout right. The workout itself is intense. So when he comes and talks to you, it's not overwhelming."
Between Hamilton's workouts and Noah's work with French osteopath Fabrice Gautier, the All-Star center sounds as confident as ever he will experience a healthy 2013-14 after campaigns plagued by plantar fasciitis. Noah credits Gautier, who lives in Los Angeles and has worked with the French national team, for saving his playoffs last season.
Noah confirmed Gautier will visit Chicago periodically during the season.
"I feel very confident that my feet are good," Noah said. "I put a lot of work into my feet this summer, making sure this wasn't going to be a recurring problem. I put a lot of work into taking care of my body this summer. The groin injury was like a freak thing. I'll be back strong soon."
And when another offseason comes, might Noah at some point join Hamilton on the waves?
"Not yet, but I want to learn eventually," Noah said. "I tried to get up on a board. I'm not there yet. But you know what? Luc Longley actually gave me some tips. And if his big ass can do it, I think I will be able to do it one day."
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