Joakim Noah named to NBA All-Star team
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter January 30, 2014 6:16PM
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Updated: January 31, 2014 5:03PM
NEW ORLEANS — There’s a story to be written about this Bulls season, and center Joakim Noah has no problem playing the role of introspective author.
Thursday’s chapter deals with a second consecutive All-Star berth after he was named an Eastern Conference reserve by the coaches.
“I’m just happy, man; I’m really happy,’’ Noah said in a teleconference. “It goes through your mind, but it’s an unbelievable honor, very humbling. Even though it’s not my priority, it’s good. . . . I’m not going to take any of these experiences for granted.’’
Noah was humbled, but coach Tom Thibodeau kept insisting Noah’s selection was a no-brainer.
With Derrick Rose lost for the season and Luol Deng traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the start of the month, Noah is a big reason why the Bulls have stayed relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, carrying the team throughout January to an 11-4 record, especially on the offensive side.
“Jo is facilitating a lot of that,’’ Thibodeau said of the offense finally showing some consistency. “As a team, in general, I think we’re making quicker decisions, which is good. And Jo is a big part of that because the ball goes through him so much. When he makes those quick decisions, we can get layups, we can get good balance.
“Jo is unique because he can also bust out with a defensive rebound, so you have that component. Then you have the pick-and-roll. The pick-and-roll, when we sometimes throw the ball to him first, let him touch it back, I think that’s hard to guard.’’
The numbers back up how good Noah has been of late.
After missing most of training camp with groin and hamstring issues, Noah was out of sync in November. He averaged 9.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists. In January, Noah averaged 13.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Compared to other NBA centers, Noah was 14th in scoring (11.7 per game) but fifth in rebounding (11.4), 11th in blocks (1.4), third in steals (1.1) and first in assists (4.2).
“Coach has been huge,’’ Noah said. “He’s probably the hungriest guy I’ve been around.
‘‘He’s passionate about the game. All he cares about is the game, it seems like, but we’ve gone through a lot with the player-coach relationship, but I definitely admire his work ethic.’’
And while the All-Star Game will once again be special for him, especially to have his father, Yannick, and his ‘‘crew’’ with him in New Orleans, Noah considers that a small break in the journey this season. A journey he needs to see end with a shot in the playoffs.
“You can’t take anything for granted,’’ Noah said. “You never know. A lot of ups and downs. We’ve dealt with a lot of punches thrown at us, and we’ve always fought back. There’s a long journey ahead, and the second half of the season is no joke.
“It doesn’t matter who we play in the first round; all these playoff experiences are something we can’t take for granted.
‘‘Our careers are short, and anytime you play in the playoffs, it’s special. That’s what it’s all about. It’s like the reward for all the hard work we put in all season.’’