Bulls’ Joakim Noah: Being star is great, but playoffs are priority
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org February 17, 2013 11:48PM
East Team's Joakim Noah from France, of the Chicago Bulls celebrates against the West Team during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Updated: February 18, 2013 10:02AM
HOUSTON, Texas --- In his first NBA All-Star appearance, Joakim Noah played the only way he knows how.
The Bulls center didn’t give his hardworking mentality the night off even during a game known for its lack of defensive intensity.
“What else am I going to do?” he asked afterwards.
Noah dunked twice and even hung on rim for a few seconds, prolonging the moment and displaying the kind of showmanship that he rarely displays but is as much a part of the All-Star Game as celebrities sitting courtside. He used a nice crossover move to score in the third quarter but it was his effort that stuck out most during the Eastern Conference’s 143-138 loss at the Toyota Center.
Noah finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in 16 minutes, 12 seconds, which was even more impressive considering he was running on fumes.
“I enjoyed every minutes on the court,” Noah said. “I had a lot of fun. I haven’t slept in three days. That’s for real. Not one of my friends wasn’t here. My pops was here. I was looking up and he was smiling and proud. It just really means everything to me.”
Bulls forward Luol Deng, making his second appearance, had 10 points, two rebounds and an assist while logging 17:05.
“I played ‘D’ once,” Deng said. “It was a good feeling not having to play ‘D.’”
Noah was so thrilled to participate that he was the first Eastern Conference player on the floor for warm-ups.
Noah didn’t expect to play major minutes after missing three games before the break with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached the East, monitored Noah’s minutes but did put him back in the game late in the fourth quarter when the outcome was in doubt.
“Jo played his game,” Deng said. “He just played like Jo plays. He was having fun and he got to know the guys a little bit and they got to know what Joakim is like.”
Noah challenged Chris Paul, crouching in a defensive stance and even clapping his hands before Paul buried a 3-pointer in his face to help seal the game for the West.
He later inadvertently elbowed Paul in the face while running down the floor.
“I just felt like I might as well go out there and give it everything I’ve got,” Noah said. “I can’t half-[expletive] it or I would really look like [expletive].”
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points. Paul added 20 points and 15 assists for the West and was named the MVP. Blake Griffin had 19 and James Harden 15.
Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points while Dwyane Wade added 21 and LeBron James 19. Paul George scored 17 and Kyrie Irving added 15 for the East.
“It’s nonstop,” Noah said of his whirlwind weekend. “It’s not a lot of rest or anything like that but at the end of the day it’s the best players in the world. Just to be in this situation, especially for me, as an energy player, is humbling.”