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‘Hero’ Dennis Rodman visible in Joakim Noah

Bulls center Joakim Noah is stopped by Atlantcenter ZazPachuli(L) Jeff Teague as he drives basket first half  Chicago Bulls

Bulls center Joakim Noah is stopped by Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia (L) and Jeff Teague as he drives to the basket in the first half of the Chicago Bulls 86-73 win over the Atlanta Hawks in game two of the second round May 4, 2011 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 7, 2011 12:39AM



As long as center Joakim Noah is averaging 15 points, 11.5
rebounds and heaps of hustle, the Bulls will be favored to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks, as most expect.

An 86-73 Bulls victory Wednesday night at the United Center evened the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1. The Bulls will try to regain home-court advantage with a victory tonight in Game 3 in Atlanta.

While Hawks coach Larry Drew said his players had “adequate” success in holding MVP guard Derrick Rose to game highs of 25 points and 10 assists, they could not do the same with Noah. The 6-11 center with the rag-doll style and distance-runner stamina scored 19 points and grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds to lead the Bulls to a whopping 58-39 rebounding edge.

With his great energy and athleticism, Noah strikes me defensively as a poor man’s Dennis Rodman without the freak-show antics. Offensively, it’s no contest. Despite his ugly shooting style, especially from the free-throw line, Noah is a better shooter than Hall of Famer Rodman, who won seven consecutive NBA rebounding titles and helped the Bulls win their last three championships.

“Rodman was my hero when I was growing up,” Noah said. “He was one of the greatest rebounders ever. I liked the way he played with passion, got into his opponents’ heads and entertained the crowd. I draw a lot of inspiration from him.”

Rodman made rebounding sound simple.

“There’s nothing complex or scientific about rebounding,” he once told me. “You’ve just got to want it more than the other guy. I look at each missed shot as my rebound. So I jump with the intention of keeping anybody else from taking away what’s mine. Rebounding is more will than skill.”

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer called Noah’s effort Wednesday night “a monster game,” and coach Tom Thibodeau agreed.

“He played with high energy and multiple effort,” Thibodeau said. “He had great screening, solid defense, and he reacted well to the boards. He was also quick, and he got to the line and made free throws.”

On defense, the Hawks rotated forwards Josh Smith and Marvin Williams and centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia against Noah. Horford, Noah’s former teammate at Florida, where they won back-to-back NCAA championships, tied Noah for game honors with 14 rebounds. But he scored only six points despite playing five more minutes than Noah.

The best the Hawks could do was foul Noah, and he went 7-for-8 from the line.

As for Noah’s competitiveness, it is first-rate. He takes on all comers. How could we expect any less from a guy who even talked a little trash with President Obama last summer when they played in a pickup game Obama scheduled to entertain some injured troops?

“One time he went up and scored on me,” Noah said. “I told him, ‘You know, you’re lucky you’re the president because I could have blocked your shot.’ But he said, ‘If you would have gone for the block, I would have pulled a reverse move on you.’ I liked that. The president even talks trash. He’s a cool dude. He’s a man of the people.”

So is Noah. Just ask Bulls fans.



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