Previous ArticlesLuol Deng heads for second All-Star Game as veteran
Deng and Noah discuss the world’s issues with media
by Sam Smith
Posted on Feb 16
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They’d been talking about it for a few weeks, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, though more Noah, as they bounced around the United States, from Brooklyn to Atlanta to Denver, Utah and Boston.
They were headed to the All-Star game together, the Bulls teammates who’d gone through so much together the last six years and who seemed like such unlikely candidates back then on a 33-win team, Noah barely playing and as he joked the only player ever suspended by his teammates, and Deng with three different trips to the injured list.
“I’ve been taking Jo under my wing,” said Deng, who was preparing for his second consecutive All-Star game appearance. “Telling him what was coming, what to expect.
“I been with the guy the last couple of weeks since they announced it, taking the plane together (to Houston). I’ve kind of had enough of his excitement,” Deng laughed. “It’s a little too much.”
So Deng counseled Noah the biggest thing would be the media, the swarm like locust, though with less penetrating questions. Deng could tell Noah wasn’t impressed. He’d played national championship games in college, traveled the world. What’s a few more reporters?
“I’m a lot calmer,” Deng said about this year. “It’s different when you know what’s coming. We opened the door (in the hotel ballroom for the Friday media session with perhaps 700 reporters and photographers, the NBA’s version of Super Bowl Media Day) and I could see in Jo’s face, it was like, ‘I’ve never seen that before.’”
And he hasn’t had to answer many questions like that as the first one Noah had to consider Friday was what game he was certain he could beat Michael Jordan at (“ping pong”) and considering it was Lent what would he hate giving up for 40 days.
Noah pondered that one awhile, and we can only imagine what was going on in his head. But he finally offered “basketball,” and Noah did add that he had a plasma treatment Thursday before coming, similar to one he had in 2010 the last time he had a serious plantar fasciitis flareup.
“It (foot) felt pretty good,” Noah said. “I’m happy about it that it’s not getting any worse. I did the (plasma) thing Thursday morning. It’s very painful after the treatment. I can still feel it. I think it’s helped and I’m hoping with some rest today and tomorrow I think I’ll be OK. I won’t do too much Sunday. I won’t play 44 minutes.”
Though Noah did joke he told East coach Erik Spoelstra of Miami about his situation and Spoelstra said he’d be playing a lot.
So before it was over after 45 minutes of curious and oddball concerns, Noah pondered the equivalent of what tree you would be if you were a tree, a query about his fantasy wear for playing, his views on soccer racism, gun violence, Derrick Rose and long hair while alternating between answers in French and English with a request also to speak Spanish. While Deng did requested intros for sports TV shows in India, Japan and Australia and added updates on his wrist, Rose’s possibilities of missing the season and how his lifetime dream of being a soccer player was ruined by his continual growth spurts.
– Deng: “I wouldn’t stop growing. At a young age my first love, I wanted to be a (soccer) player. I copied every player. But I wouldn’t stop growing. My coach in England, he’d tell you how many times I’d miss practice just to play football (soccer). I just wouldn’t stop growing.”
– Noah: “Growing up I was a Knicks fan, so his (Michael Jordan’s) influence was more negative for me. The older I got I appreciated his talent more. When you are a kid rooting against him and he is beating you each time that is not a good feeling. He used to make me cry a lot as a kid. (But) the only sport in the world where there is no argument about who is the greatest is basketball. It’s MJ. You can’t do that in other sports. I did wear his shoes (though). Too cool. I had to get them.”
– Deng: “I’ll be with the (British National) team this summer. Most likely I’m not (playing). I’d like to have a summer coming up to tone it down more. Every now and then I get a little pain (in his left wrist). Not enough to stop me from doing everything. I’ll talk to the doctors more (this summer regarding surgery). We’ll see what route to take.”
– Noah: “I’m trying to enjoy every moment (here) I can appreciate it. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little boy. To finally be in this situation playing against the greatest players and to share this experience against the best players in the world is very humbling.”
Asked many times about teaming on the East team with rival Kevin Garnett, with whom he’s feuded, Noah said growing up he idolized Garnett, wearing his jersey and having his poster in his room. Noah also said his father Yannick and about 20 friends from his old New York neighborhood are attending and he told his mother to stay home as this is a guys’ weekend.
– Deng: “People say a lot of things about someone without going through it (themselves). It’s very easy to stand far away and say he shouldn’t do this or that (not play in Olympics because of his wrist). It’s easy to be someone else and say something. I felt I could play, the pain was better and the wrist was improving. Every decision I made was what was best for me and the team. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt myself or jeopardize the team. I’ve been glad to play good enough to put (questions about) my wrist behind me. For a while no matter what I did, it was the wrist. If I had a bad game it was because of the wrist. It wasn’t. I just played badly. As you probably know, there are a lot of games I just don’t show up.”
– Noah: “Gun crime is out of control. I love Chicago, (but) we obviously have some serious issues. Something has to change. We have to do our best to help these kids. Obviously, there is a huge gang culture. A lot of the kids feel it is hopeless. The people in power have to come together to make this happen. It’s important to give kids activities and things to do after school, as much positive reinforcement as we can (which Noah is doing his part with his Noah’s Arc Foundation supporting sports and art programs for kids).
– Deng: “We always knew there was a chance (Rose) might not play. (But) this guy wants to play more than you (reporter). He’s in the gym before we get there and when we leave. He wants to come back. People need to trust every decision he makes. He’s going to make the best decisions for him and the team. I keep telling him he shouldn’t play until he is 100 percent. His decision shouldn’t depend on how the team is doing. Just on how he feels. If we were having a bad season and losing, everyone would say Derrick should rest. I almost feel like it’s a lot of selfishness and the fact we are doing well and then you add a little sugar (Rose) and try to win it all. But at the same time you have to understand it’s a bigger picture and not about 30 or 40 games. I believe he’s going to be better than before as hard as he’s working. This is a little bump in the road.”
– Noah: “I think my hair is my power. It’s kind of a vibe to me. That’s who I am. My pops played with dreds. I’m kind of a hippie at heart. I’d probably wear my Navajo beads (on my uniform if I could). I always wear them off the court. I love Native American culture.”
– Deng: “(Andres) Noce was a big inspiration for me. He came about when I did, but was not a rookie (playing overseas). Every day at practice he’d tell me, ‘I’m going to kick you (butt).’ I think I could have gone to another place and turned out completely different without him.”
– Noah: “It’s always been the same thing (regarding Rose). I don’t understand why you (media) guys are making such a big deal out of it. He always said if he’s not 100 percent he’s not coming back. We know for him to come back he needs to be 100 percent. We don’t want him to come back if he’s not. I respect his decision either way because I know how much he wants to be out there. But he’s got to be smart. We’re in a situation now where we’re in a little bit of a slump. But I feel the potential is there. I feel Derrick is working really hard to get back and if he is healthy he will. But we are very capable team (either way) and can make a lot of noise. I think it would be deflating to everybody (if Derrick sits out) but at the same time we understand there’s a bigger picture.”
– Deng: “We’ve been dismissed all year. It’s nothing new to us. I still believe we are capable of being better and that we can beat anybody and play with anybody. Sometimes it’s hard for a lot of people to see that. I’m happy for Derrick he came out and said (he could remain out). It makes it a lot easier on him, less pressure on everyone about trying to bring him back. We never played for the day Derrick would come back. We have shown we can be good and beat the best teams. We just have to be more consistent.”
– Noah: “Throwing the back door pass even if it’s not there (what he learned from Brad Miller). Just throw it, man.”
– Deng: “How did what happen and where we go from here (regarding the Saturday players meeting perhaps to replace Billy Hunter as Noah acting as Bulls player rep said the union needs change).”
– Noah: “(On instructions from a Japanese TV crew) Japanese fans, men and women from far away. We are here at the All-Star game and want to show you some love. Cheers.”
– Deng: “There’s a rumor the Bulls are playing the Wizards in Brazil next October? I would love to go to Brazil.”