Noah Earns Second Straight All-Star Trip

By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter

NEW ORLEANS — Why did NBA coaches select the Bulls’ Joakim Noah to play in his second straight All-Star Game?

Take a slice from Wednesday night’s game against the Spurs in San Antonio. In the span of 40 seconds, Noah blocked Tim Duncan on a slam attempt, fed a cutting Mike Dunleavy for a layup and then altered the layup try of Nando De Colo, whose shot didn’t even draw iron.

CT bulls-grizzlies009.JPG“The things he does for us,” teammate Kirk Hinrich said, “speak volumes.”

Noah, though, spoke modestly after receiving the news Thursday.

Asked if his goal is to become a complete player, he replied: “I’m just trying to win ballgames, man.”

The 6-foot-11 center is one of eight NBA players averaging a double-double (11.7 points and 11.4 rebounds), and he stretched his career-long streak of double-digit rebounding games to 17 on Wednesday. He knows he got lucky, collecting his final board on his own missed shot with 16.5 seconds to play.

“That was crazy,” he said. “The basketball gods were on my side.”

Noah has built a huge following this season, but Steve Kerr has been a fan since he took Noah and Corey Brewer out to dinner before the 2007 NBA draft. Kerr, now a TNT NBA analyst who will work the Feb. 16 All-Star Game in New Orleans, was the general manager of the Suns.

“We fell in love with both of them,” Kerr said. “There was a reason they won back-to-back NCAA championships (at Florida). The sense was that Noah was the instigator on that team. There was lot of speculation about whether that (mischievous attitude) was good or bad — and whether it might be a problem or issue in the pros. But we loved him from the beginning.”

Kerr said that when he watches Noah, he thinks: I wish I could have played with him.

“For many reasons — the defensive protection, the passion, the competitive desire to win,” Kerr said. “He is just a winner, that’s all.”

During a conference call Thursday night, Noah made it clear he remains a team-first guy.

“It’s an unbelievable honor to be selected,” he said. “Even though it’s not my priority, it’s a good achievement and I’m proud of it.”

Hinrich was in Chicago for Noah’s rookie year, when he averaged just 6.6 points and 5.6 boards and got the tag as being immature.

“He has come a long way,” Hinrich said. “We knew that the talent and ability was there. Now he’s an elite rebounder and elite passer, which is rare for a guy his size. But the main thing about Jo is that he brings it every night.”

Other East reserves: Indiana Pacers center, Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap and Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

West reserves: Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, Rockets shooting guard James Harden, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

The starting lineups, which was announced last week, feature Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love in the West and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, Heat guard Dwyane Wade and forward LeBron James, Pacers forward Paul George and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony in the East.

The 63rd NBA All-Star Game will be played at the New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16 (7:00 p.m., CT), and will be televised on TNT and broadcast on ESPN Radio.

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