Joakim Noah tells the Chicago Tribune that the big contract extension he signed last season has messed with his head this year: “Noah for the first time revealed the five-year, $60 million extension he signed in October 2010 and which began this season contributed to his struggles. ‘Yeah, no question, I thought about that,’ Noah said. ‘Sometimes you feel like because you’re given so much money you’re expected to do things. That’s not the right mentality to have as a player. I have to play my game. I have to have fun out there. If I don’t, I’m not the same player.’ Noah is having fun now. Beyond the Bulls’ Eastern Conference-best 18-5 mark, the center is, well, affecting winning. He has double-doubles in five straight games, narrowly missed a triple-double Monday in Washington with a career-high seven assists and is averaging 10.4 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last 10 games. Perhaps equally important, Noah’s energy and intensity have returned. Anyone who saw him mimic holstering his guns after sinking one of his patented “Tornado” jumpers against the Wizards knows his spirit has too. ‘I’ve always been a player who reacts well to criticism and doubters,’ Noah said. ‘I feel my teammates were always behind me. But I knew as well as anyone how poorly I was playing. And not only wasn’t I playing well, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t playing loose out there. I was playing tight. In the beginning of the year, I was overthinking a lot. I was going through a lot of things personally. I feel a lot more comfortable now. I have to stop overthinking and just play.'”
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