COMMENTARY | The NBA All-Star game has long been a glorified exhibition contest. There is minimal defense until the fourth quarter, if the game remains close, and players usually go at about half-speed until then as well. The East vs. West competition is mostly about putting on a show. You have centers taking three-point shots, guards putting on ball handling demonstrations, and a dunk just about every other possession. The game is presumably for entertainment purposes only. However, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls did not get this memo.
Upon entering his very first All-Star game on Sunday night, it was apparent that Noah came to play. He screamed after making a contested lay-in, blocked shots and put a crossover move on Zach Randolph. He even caught Chris Paul with a slight elbow in an attempt to protect the ball from being stolen. Those expecting to see or participate in a relaxed game of pick-up ball where players do not impede the efforts of the opposition were sadly mistaken while Noah was on the floor. He was the same animal that he has always been.
In Noah's defense, he plays for one of the most disciplined and demanding NBA coaches in Tom Thibodeau. He is not accustomed to coasting through games. Not without repercussions at least. He probably wouldn't if he could anyway. Noah's heart and hustle have come to define him as an athlete, and playing under Thibs simply adds fuel to that innate fire.
He plays one way and one way only-- hard. This can carry over into environments where it is not necessarily welcome. As superstars come to All-Star weekend wanting to have fun and avoid injury, they may not take too kindly to Noah's all-out approach. But this is their problem, not his, as this is the way that he always performs.
Noah obviously does not care what type of game it is, it's still NBA Basketball. And in this game, he goes to work-- never takes a play off, never backs down and never gives in. In a nutshell, this is exactly why Chicago loves him; but also why most opposing teams and fans hate him.
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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