Noah a lightning rod in series
CLEVELAND — For a change, Joakim Noah kept his mouth shut.
Noah, Chicago's outspoken center who called Boston's Kevin Garnett "a dirty player" and ripped this city for not being up to his entertainment standards, had nothing to say before the Bulls played the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA playoffs on Monday night.
Noah stayed in the trainer's room during the 45-minute period that Chicago's locker room was open to the media.
He was escorted onto the floor by a security guard for warmups and was greeted by a smattering of boos from the early arriving fans.
Earlier, Noah said he wasn't concerned about any rude reception from Cleveland fans miffed at him for saying their city "sucks."
"I don't care," Noah snapped as he walked to the Bulls' team bus after shootaround. "At all."
On Sunday, before his anti-Garnett rant, 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 him. 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.
James dismissed Noah's harsh comments about Cleveland.
"Noah is one of those guys who likes attention," 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."
Noah's teammates have come to accept him speaking his mind.
"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."
Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro wasn't bothered by Noah's remarks.
"Jo's going to speak his mind, and you back it up by playing well," he said. "I don't think he said anything he doesn't speak from the heart. It gets you guys all riled up and he's sitting back there laughing and having fun with it. Whatever gets him ready to play and gets him going, is fine with me."
Noah was the villain of this series before it started. He 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, which were splashed across the front of sports sections and became rich fodder on radio talk shows.
Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas has adopted Cleveland as his hometown. 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."