The reality of Kevin McHale’s words harshly came back to bite him Thursday night.
McHale spent his pregame press conference singing the praises of Bulls’ star center Joakim Noah, testifying as to how he feels the seven-year vet is deserving of this year’s defensive player of the year award. Then, Noah painfully went out and showed him just how right he could be.
Noah held All-Star center Dwight Howard to just 12 points and forced him into turning the ball over seven times while coming within an assist (13 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists) of the seventh triple-double of his career in the Bulls 111-87 demolition of the suddenly struggling Rockets.
“He’s played very well,” McHale told ESPN earlier in the day of Noah. “He should be defensive player of the year. He’s done a great job with these guys. They’ve been winning a lot just on his energy and effort, his kind of determination and toughness. Those are all qualities everybody appreciates.”
So appreciative have Bulls fans become of Noah’s overall impact, they again broke out with chants of “MVP, MVP” for the man who has rescued the team’s season in Derrick Rose’s absence by averaging 12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and a steal this season.
“He’s just more confident in what he’s doing,” McHale added. “He’s making plays with the pass. He’s driving and kicking. When he was coming out, I thought he’d be a pick-pop-and-drive playmaking 4. He’s doing more of that now.”
Howard has known Noah since high school and he too raved about how far he has come since then and now.
“I’ve played against Joakim since Adidas camp back when he was 15, 16 years old,” he said. “I’ve seen a difference in his game. The one thing that has remained the same is his intensity level on the floor. He’s always going after every play, trying to get all the loose balls, stuff like that. The first time I met him, he was a water boy at the camp. We didn’t see too much out of him. By the time we were all seniors, he was up actually playing in the all-star game.”