Noah doesn't care about booing
CLEVELAND -- A day after making derogatory comments about the city of Cleveland, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah did not address reporters following a morning shootaround in advance of Monday night's Game 2 against the Cavaliers.
But that didn't mean he stopped talking. Asked as he walked to the team's bus if he was concerned about the reception he's certain to get before Monday night's game, Noah said: "I don't care," Noah snapped. "At all."
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Later a rabid home crowd booed every move by Noah as the Cavs maintained home-court advantage by beating the Bulls 112-102 on Monday night to take a 2-0 series lead.
Noah had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Afterward, the most brazen of the Bulls, said he had no regrets about his comments.
"Not at all," Noah said. "You like it? You think Cleveland's cool? I never heard anybody say I'm going to Cleveland on vacation. What's so good about Cleveland?"
Noah told reporters on Sunday that he was not enjoying his time in Cleveland. When asked by a reporter whether the boos he endured during a 96-83 Game 1 loss on Saturday bothered him, he responded: "What? That Cleveland sucks?"
On Monday, a large horde of local reporters waited for Noah off to the side of the Quicken Loans Arena court. After initially appearing to walk toward the group, Noah was escorted to the visitor's tunnel by a Bulls spokesperson. It was believed that he had to tape a segment for the TNT telecast and would be back out in 10 minutes.
But soon after another Bulls spokesperson came out and said Noah would not address the media. Several Cleveland media members expressed displeasure.
As he hustled to join his departing teammates, Noah 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, Sebrina?" he asked. "You like Cleveland? Be honest. See? She knows."
Noah's comments may have upset the city, but they didn't appear to rile his teammates.
"That's Jo, man," guard Derrick Rose said. "He's just trying to win. That's the way he plays. That's the way he talks. If you see him you always know he's in the room. Actually it makes all of us play harder because you know every arena he goes to, everybody hates up. It makes us play harder, and we just love shutting the crowd up."
As for his take on Cleveland, Rose said: "It's different from Chicago. I'll say that. It's different."
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.
"It gets you guys all riled up and he's sitting back in there laughing and having fun with it," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.
As far as Del Negro is concerned, what's most important is not what Noah says, but how he plays. Noah scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots in Game 1.
"We need him to play well," Del Negro said. "He knows he can play better. He's battling through some stuff, his back, his foot and everything.
"Jo's going to speak his mind, and when you do you've got to back it up. And you back it up by going out there and playing well. That's the process right now that we're in."
Several of the Cavaliers were aware of Noah's comments directed toward the city, which were splashed across the front of sports sections and became rich fodder on radio talk shows.
"Noah is one of those guys who likes attention," LeBron James said about 90 minutes before tip-off. "I would never, for the most part, say anything like that. But that's just me and our team. It doesn't take our concentration away from what's at hand and that's that team over there. We're not going to worry about what city we're in. We're playing against the Bulls and we have a game plan.
"I don't get too far into what he says. It means absolutely nothing to this series."
Naperville, Ill., native Anthony Parker is happy with his new city.
"I'm sorry he doesn't appreciate Cleveland," said Parker, who's 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 fond 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 try and 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."
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report. Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.