DEERFIELD — Reflecting on his performance in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, Bulls center Joakim Noah turned serious when asked about his brief partnership with rival LeBron James.
“Don’t do that,” Noah chided a member of the media after the Bulls’ Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center, their first in the facility in over a month, prior to flying to Toronto for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors.
“I had a great time. Now it’s back to work. Happy to be back in the Chi,” Noah went on to say about his All-Star weekend in New Orleans.
Noah scored a modest eight points, to go along with five rebounds in nearly 21 minutes of play during the exhibition affair, the highest-scoring All-Star Game in league history. But it was his fourth-quarter defense that helped the East mount a comeback and secure a 163-155 victory.
“I feel good that I was in the game. I wanted to be in the game, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to play at the end,” he said. “The intensity definitely picked up a little bit, and I’m happy that we won.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau claimed he spent most of the weekend at local theaters, taking in movies “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Lone Survivor,” but he did take time to observe Noah representing the Eastern Conference.
“You know what, the second quarter I was a little nervous watching him because all I saw him do was take the ball out of the net and I said, ‘Please just get a bucket and an assist and a rebound, and then get out,’” the coach quipped. “But I thought he was great. The fourth quarter, I think it was a lot of fun for him. I think he’s gotten real comfortable. I think anytime you can have that experience, that’s a big plus, and I think he continues to learn and grow from those situations. But I thought he played really, really well in the fourth quarter. I thought when the game got serious, it was good.”
Thibodeau didn’t bite when asked about Noah’s chemistry with the aforementioned James.
“Look, LeBron is probably pretty good with just about anybody. He might be good with me,” he joked. “It’s funny, when you watch those games, it says a lot about the players and the greatness of all the players. Great players always figure it out, they do. They know how to make it work and they know, ‘OK, this is going to work in this situation,’ and that’s a credit to all of them. The league does a phenomenal job with the whole weekend.”
According to Thibodeau, Noah is no worse for the wear.
“He had a great practice today,” the coach said. “He came in with a lot of energy, did a good job, a very good job.”
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer also caught Noah’s act while relaxing with his family and recovering from a strained left calf that sidelined him before the final game before the All-Star break.
“Oh yeah, at this time of the season, every player on every team looks forward to the break. Obviously, some guys like Joakim have to go represent us in the All-Star Game. He did a great job by the way, played great. Obviously, his team won, so it was pretty awesome,” he explained. “But the rest of us get a chance to recover, let our bodies heal a little bit, get a chance to let our bodies recover and get ready for the second-half stretch and get ready for the playoffs.”