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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 19, 2010

NBA: Bulls' Noah a lightning rod in series


TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND For a change, Joakim Noah didn't have anything bad to say about Kevin Garnett or Cleveland.

He's still talking, though.

Noah, Chicago's outspoken center who called Boston's Garnett "a dirty player" and ripped this city for not being up to his entertainment standards, said Monday that he isn't concerned about the rude reception he's certain to get before Monday's Game 2 against the Cavaliers.

"I don't care," Noah snapped as he walked to the Bulls' team bus after shootaround. "At all."

Noah slipped out the door while a mob of TV cameras and reporters waited on the Quicken Loans Arena court to hear what else he might have to say about Cleveland or Garnett. Noah was expected to address the media throng but an interview with TNT ran long and he avoided the crowd.

As he hustled to join his departing teammates, he was asked if he was aware he was being harshly criticized for his comments."

"People slamming me because of my comments?" he said to The Associated Press before turning to a Bulls media relations person for assistance.

"What you think, Sabrina?" he asked. "You like Cleveland? Be honest. See? She knows."

On Sunday, Noah said: "I don't know about Cleveland, man, there is nothing going on. It's bad, man."

He was then asked if his dislike motivates him.

"What, that Cleveland really sucks," he said.

Noah's comments about Cleveland have further angered Cavaliers fans, who have grown to dislike Chicago's outspoken big man. In a game earlier this season, Noah took exception to LeBron James dancing on the floor and had a heated exchange with the league's reigning MVP.

Noah's teammates have come to accept him speaking his mind and being treated as an NBA villain.

"That's Jo," shrugged guard Derrick Rose. "He's just trying to win. That's the way he plays, the way he talks. You always know he's in the room. It makes all of us play harder because we know everywhere we go everybody hates him. You love shutting the crowd up, but it's going to take wins."

Noah was repeatedly booed during Game 1 and he's certain to be targeted again in this best-of-seven series, which shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Thursday.

Several of the Cavaliers were aware of Noah's rude comments directed toward the city, which were splashed across the front of sports sections and became rich fodder on radio talk shows.

"I'm sorry he doesn't appreciate Cleveland," said forward Anthony Parker, in his first season with the Cavs. "My family has enjoyed it. We don't want him to enjoy the city too much and I think we're doing our job in Cleveland if he's not enjoying his time here."

Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas has grown found of Cleveland. After being traded in February, Ilgauskas, who was drafted by the Cavs in 1996, could have signed elsewhere but decided to return to help Cleveland win its first NBA title mostly because of the strong bond he has with the city and its fans.

Ilgauskas said Cleveland reminds him of where he grew up in Lithuania.

"A lot of factories, it's a blue-collar town, good people," he said. "The weather is the same, the food is similar."

Would he mind showing Noah what Cleveland has to offer?

"I'm busy," Ilgauskas said with a smile. "I don't have much time. Maybe in the summer."