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Joakim Noah Is Happy for LeBron James, but Not That Happy

USA Today
Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 25, 2014

Joakim Noah has never had a problem speaking from the heart, a trait he put on full display (again) in his comments about LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here, in all their blunt glory, are Noah's thoughts on King James' homecoming:

Perfect, right?

Noah is among the NBA's best interviews for exactly this reason. He's never afraid to give an honest opinion, but he's somehow diplomatic enough to get away with providing bulletin-board material because he couches his thornier words in respect.

Does Noah have the social conscience and humanitarian spirit to appreciate what James' return does for Cleveland?

Of course he does. As evidence, consider how Noah spent July 25 working with his Noah's Arc Foundation and speaking out about the gun violence in Chicago. This guy isn't your ordinary "see opponent, smash opponent" competitor. He has far more perspective than that.

But does Noah's thoughtfulness preclude him from some good old-fashioned trash talk?

Mar 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) talks with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Heat 95-88. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Nope.

Remember, this is the same guy who simultaneously praised the skill and condemned the packaging of James' old Miami Heat. Up until now, this was the best example of Noah's skill at delivering a shot and a compliment at the same time:

Now, he's topped himself.

Noah and the Chicago Bulls head into the 2014-15 season looking as strong as they have in years, bolstered by the return of Derrick Rose, the arrival of Pau Gasol and the addition of perimeter marksmen Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

Oh, and Noah, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, seems pretty spry himself:

At the same time, the Cavs now have James to go along with a young core and the veterans (Mike Miller and James Jones) who have followed LeBron to Cleveland. So even if the Bulls are drastically improved, they probably can't expect to continue dominating their Central Division foe like they have over the past four years.

Since 2010-11, Chicago is 13-2 against the Cavs. Something tells me that James will have a few things to say about balancing that record out.

In any case, Noah's comments presage a budding rivalry that should keep everyone entertained for years to come. And even if the games themselves aren't as great as expected, we'll still have Noah's future sound bites to look forward to.

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