Blue-collar Noah stays in character during game
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
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)
HOUSTON — In his first All-Star appearance, Bulls center Joakim Noah played the only way he knows how.
Noah 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 said.
Noah dunked twice and even hung on the rim for a few seconds, prolonging the moment and displaying the kind of showmanship that he rarely flashes 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 to the West on Sunday at the Toyota Center.
Noah finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in a little over 16 minutes, which was even more impressive considering he was running on fumes.
“I enjoyed every minute 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 in 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.
He didn’t expect to play major minutes after missing three games before the break with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached the East, monitored Noah’s minutes but did put him back in 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.”
Crouching in a defensive stance and clapping his hands, Noah even challenged Chris Paul, who buried a three-pointer in his face to help seal the game.
Noah 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.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points. Paul had 20 points and 15 assists and was named the MVP. Blake Griffin had 19 points and James Harden 15.
Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points. 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. Just to be in this situation, especially for me as an energy player, is humbling.”