Green, Noah's beloved mentor who died earlier this week, knew his prized pupil wasn't perfect all the time -- but he loved him. He always saw the good in Noah's heart and defended him when people doubted the lanky big man running up and down the court.
After spending the day with Green while writing a feature on Noah in the summer of 2010, and subsequently seeing him periodically throughout the years, it was easy to see that the love between the two men never waned. Green believed in Noah when few others did and referred to him as the "the son I never had."
Noah felt the same about the man he always referred to as "Mr. Green."
He trusted him. That trust was built up over a number of years while Noah lived with Green and tried to make a name for himself on the tough New York City basketball circuit.
"I've never seen a kid work so hard in my life," Green said. "Everybody used to laugh at Jo. At one time, I had him, Charlie Villanueva. We had one of the best teams in the country. The Long Island Panthers, a real big program. We had Lamar Odom, Speedy Claxton, and they used to laugh at Jo, and I said, 'This is the kid.'
"I knew since Jo was 13 that he was going to go to the NBA, and I told his father and his mother that, and they laughed at me. I said, 'This guy's going to be an NBA player because [of] the passion he has for the game and he can motivate.' He motivates kids now. Everybody [says] 'I want to be like Jo.' He's the type of kid that could go in a room and everybody stops and listens to what he says."
Whenever Green entered a room, it was Noah who always stopped to listen.
He always wanted to make Green proud.
For as much pride as Green took in Noah's maturation and development, Noah took as much pride, if not more, in the fact that he was able to live up to being the player Green always thought he could be. As the years wore on, Green grew to love Noah even more because he saw some of himself and his own personality when Noah was playing.
"He wants to win," Green said. "And he don't care. When they hate him he plays better and better and better. He wants them to hate him. That's why he laughs everything off. He doesn't care. Jo does his own thing, and he doesn't care who likes him. He's like me. If I feel something's wrong, I'm not going to keep it [in]. I'm going to tell you how I feel about it, and that's why I think I get along with people and kids of the world. I'm not going to say you're a superstar, and Jo will tell you -- I have never told Jo he was a good ball player. Never. He's the type of kid that, he don't need nobody to praise him. He's going to do what he has to do and that's it."
The NBA has informed teams that it is projecting a rise in the salary cap of nearly $5 million for next season, which could aid clubs such as Chicago and Houston in their attempts to steal free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, according to sources familiar with the forecasts.
Sources told ESPN.com that all 30 teams were informed this week via league memorandum that an increase in the cap from this season's $58.6 million to $63.2 million in 2014-15 -- thanks to increased revenues -- is now expected. A corresponding rise in the luxury-tax threshold from $71.7 million to $77 million is also projected, sources said.
It must be noted that these are non-binding forecasts that have been circulated roughly three months before the official cap ceiling and luxury-tax threshold for next season are announced in early July following a league-wide audit.
But the latest projections will undoubtedly be welcomed by numerous teams that are planning to be active in free agency this summer. If the projections hold, several clubs will find themselves with more spending money and financial flexibility than they initially planned.
Noah did not speak to reporters after Saturday's practice, but he did release a statement through the Bulls regarding Green's passing.
"I am saddened by the passing of Mr. Green, who was like a second father to me," Noah said in the statement. "I will do my best to respect his life and his family in this time of grief and ask that everyone please do the same. I will miss him very much."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is confident that Noah will be ready to play Sunday night during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Wizards.
"It’s a tough situation," Thibodeau said. "Everyone grieves differently. I thought he was very sharp in practice today. Hopefully he’ll be fine tomorrow."
That means that Kirk Hinrich is going to be charged with setting a defensive tone in this series. The veteran guard, who played with Wall in his rookie season, is going to be the man Thibodeau leans on to stay in front of the All-Star guard. It's a challenge that Hinrich believes he and his teammates will be ready for.
"We have to be good as a team in transition," Hinrich said. "You have to get guys back and form a wall and [be] low to the ball and try to slow him down. It's easier to talk about it than do it."
Forming a wall to beat Wall will be a focal point of Thibodeau's defensive plan in this series.
Confidence is solid: The Bulls are not feeling cocky as they head into Game 1 Sunday night, but they do feel confident. They aren't making any grandiose predictions about how far they'll go in the postseason, but they do believe that if they play together that it will be tough for any team to beat them.
"It’s one game at a time, one play at a time," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "We feel that we have an opportunity to do something special. We believe in the locker room, we believe in going far, but it’ll all come down to one play at a time, really. In the playoffs, everything gets really shrunk down to how hard guys play, knowing the play calls and aggression. It’s a lot of heart. That’s the main thing. Without those things, you’re really going to have a rough night."
The last word: Thibodeau isn't buying into the notion that the Wizards don't have much playoff experience. While they haven't been to the playoffs in several years as a group, he did note that many guys have played in important games before.
"I think they have a lot of experience also. When you’re young like Wall and [Bradley] Beal, they have college experience where they played in big pressure games. The rest of their team is experienced. [Marcin] Gortat has been around and been in a lot of big games. Andre Miller has been in a lot of big games. They have a number of guys -- Al Harrington is another -- that have been in big games. That team is well put together. They’ve got a good blend of young and old. You can’t overlook the importance of having veterans on your team. They’ve done that. When you look at their second unit, and it’s Andre Miller, a [Martell] Webster, a Harrington, a Nene -- those guys can start for a lot of teams."
As the Bulls tried to regain their balance in the wake of another devastating loss of their franchise player, D.J. Augustin was sitting on the bench in Toronto, a former lottery pick in 2008 unable to crack the Raptors' rotation. He appeared in just 10 games with the Raptors, averaging just 8.2 minutes a game before being released Dec. 9.
But his release turned out to be a stroke of luck for Augustin and the Bulls. Looking for depth at guard with Rose lost for another season, the 8-12 Bulls signed Augustin on Dec. 13. Now the Bulls, who went 40-22 since he signed, begin the playoffs Sunday against the Washington Wizards as one of the NBA's hottest teams. And Augustin, who just four months ago appeared to be bound for journeyman status, has played a major role.
"We knew D.J. was a pro," Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "He had two really good years in Charlotte, averaging double figures, that type of thing. But somehow, and it happens with players sometimes in this league, they go to different teams and they kind of get lost in the shuffle. The stars kind of aligned for him and us with Derrick's injury and him not playing any minutes in Toronto and them letting him go, we were in a position to sell to him that he would have an opportunity to play significant minutes."
He only started nine games, but Augustin proved to be the playmaker the Bulls needed, leading the team in scoring at 14.9 points a game and was second in assists with 5.0 a game.
"Much like Nate Robinson last year, D.J. has won us a ton of games and in many ways made this season what it is," Paxson said. "It's a credit to him as an individual player to come here, accept and embrace the opportunity and then to respond and to perform and his performance has been terrific. You always like guys that are fearless, and he's that way. He'll take big shots, he'll make them, you can put the ball in his hands and most times he's going to make the right decision.
"When you look back on it, he did start some games when Kirk was out for a little bit," Paxson said, "but for the most part he's been coming off the bench, playing about 25-30 minutes a game and he's averaging almost 15 points a game in that role for us. It's been a special year for him and we wouldn't be where we are without him."
As lucky as both parties were to find each other in December, the fortune likely will change for the Bulls in the offseason when it comes to Augustin. Playing on a one-year deal, Augustin, like Robinson last summer, should be in demand as a free agent and might have priced himself out of the Bulls' budget with his comeback season.
"We hope so certainly that we can sign him, but he's not under contract next year and there will be a market for him," Paxson said. "He's had a spectacular year."
The Bulls received the 16th pick from the Bobcats in a 2010 trade that sent Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte and was protected until this year.
With two top-20 selections, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Friday that he is confident the team will be able to add two good players if they decide to keep both picks.
"Yeah, the way we look at it is we already know going into next year who our core group is going to be," Paxson said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "You start with Derrick, you start with [Joakim Noah]. Jimmy [Butler] has been terrific as well, and Taj [Gibson]. That's really our core. When you feel good about certain guys on your team, you can look at the draft and you can say, 'OK, what do we need and who are the type of guys who fit what we have?'
"We've done a pretty good job of finding fits for our group, so I think we're confident that we'll get -- if we keep both picks -- two good players in this thing. It's a process, though. Sometimes you take a player that's a little more ready, sometimes you take a guy that might need a little bit more development."
Paxson stopped short of calling this a deep draft, preferring to wait until the final list of eligible players comes out.
"I like to think that in any draft you can find fits for your basketball team," Paxson said. "There's a lot of good players out there, and so that's our job, to find fits for our team, for our coach, for our program -- and that's the task at hand when it comes to the draft."
A source with knowledge of the situation said Noah is expected to fly back to Chicago on Friday night.
"Jo's out for bereavement," Thibodeau said. "Hopefully he'll be back (Saturday). But everybody else is here ... he's back in New York but hopefully he'll be back (Saturday)."
"He's making great progress," Forman said on ESPN Chicago 1000's "GameNight." "When he had the injury, we were very lucky that the meniscus could be repaired. He'll come back and be 100 percent -- there's no question in any of our minds. But because it was able to be repaired, he'll have great stability in that knee and it will take away the chances that it becomes arthritic towards the end of his career."
Rose was ruled out for the season after having surgery to fix the meniscus tear in his right knee Nov. 22. Forman again made it clear that Rose will not be back this season when asked Thursday night about the chances of Rose returning to play for the Bulls during the postseason.
"Our stance hasn't changed at all," Forman said.
Rose missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee and was able to play in only 10 games this season before sustaining the second major knee injury of his career. Still, Forman remains confident Rose will come back at an elite level when he returns next season.
"Let's face it, he's still only 25," Forman said. "He's still got 10, 12, 15 years ahead in his career, so everything went as we wanted it to and he continues to make great progress. There's been no setbacks, and we see him returning at 100 percent."
The Bulls are hopeful Rose will be able to participate as part of Team USA's World Cup of Basketball squad that will play in Spain this summer.
1. What about the Wizards should concern the Bulls?
Friedell: How will the Bulls be able to contain John Wall and will Tom Thibodeau be willing to use Kirk Hinrich more than his customary 25-30 minutes a night? Nene and Marcin Gortat have given the Bulls problems in the past. They can score and they know how to play on the blocks. It's going to be up to Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to limit each player in what will be a physical matchup.
Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: I'll be Captain Obvious and say Wall. In going 2-1 against the Bulls this season, Wall averaged 20 points (shooting 50 percent from the field) and eight assists. With time to prepare, the Bulls will have a solid game plan to limit his penetration, swarming him off pick-and-rolls and disrupting his flow. No one preps better than Thibodeau, and his players listen with religious fervor. But Wall is finally realizing his potential as an All-Star-caliber player, and you can't always corral talent. Another area of concern is where the Bulls are the strongest. Chicago tends to have an advantage over most teams down low when Noah and Gibson are paired together. But with bruisers Nene and Marcin Gortat, the Wizards will give the Bulls' dynamic duo some trouble.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Their ability to shut teams down defensively, and the Wizards aren't the greatest offensive team in the league. The Wizards finished 10th in the NBA in field goal percentage, and the Bulls were the second-best team (behind the Pacers) in opponents field goal percentage. Usually, especially with a team like the Bulls, when the playoffs begin, defenses have a deeper impact in games. It takes most offenses a few games to get adjusted and going, and I think that's going to be the situation with the Wizards. They have six players (including Webster at 9.7 points a game) who average double digits. In this series against the Bulls, not only are all six of those players going to have problems reaching their averages, but collectively there probably won't be one game when all six score in double figures. And that eventually will be their downfall.
2. What's the most intriguing matchup between the Bulls and Wizards?
Friedell: I'm curious to see what unfolds between Jimmy Butler and Bradley Beal. Both players are young, talented and they want to make a bigger name for themselves. They will be going after each other every game, and it should be fun to watch.
Jackson: Beal and whoever is guarding him from game to game. Between Butler, Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer -- Hinrich is going to have his hands full with Wall -- Beal is going to have the Sybil of matchup problems. The Bulls are going to show him so many different looks with so many different players in front of him, it's going to be a thing of beauty either watching them confuse the hell out of him or him figuring it out and dropping 20-plus every game.
3. Who wins the series and why?
Friedell: The Bulls in six. They are playoff-tested. They want to prove this season hasn't been a waste, and they are confident. On top of all that, they are as healthy as they've been in Thibodeau's tenure heading into a playoffs -- aside from Derrick Rose of course. The Bulls just have too much talent, too much experience and too much defensive prowess in the end.
Jackson: The Bulls. They are just, excuse me, have just shown themselves to be, a better team than the Wizards over the course of this season. On the real tip though, we are going to find out in this series if the Wizards have any fight in them. We know the Bulls do, and eventually that's going to be the factor that wins it for the Bulls. But if the Wizards show that they have the will to not wanna lose, to win a few games in this series that they aren't supposed to win, then next year -- with the help of signing one midlevel vet in the offseason -- seeing them in the playoffs will be a problem.
NEW YORK -- Michael Jordan introduced the 29th version of his shoe at an event hosted by Nike's Jordan brand in Manhattan on Thursday.
The Air Jordan XX9, which will be sold for $225 a pair in two distinct designs beginning in September, features a high-tech weaving process that designer Tinker Hatfield found in Italy. The upper part of the shoe will be made in Italy in flat sheets and shipped to Asia, where the rest of the shoe will be produced.
Hatfield, who has designed 17 of the 29 Air Jordan shoes, said the process to design the shoe took more than two years and involved a team of at least 20 people.
One version of the shoe, in the familiar black, red and white Chicago Bulls colorway, features the familiar elephant print used in one of the most popular Air Jordan shoes, the Air Jordan III, which debuted in 1988 and was the first shoe in the franchise that Hatfield designed.
"The elephant print is a unique icon that people can associate back to the brand and to Michael himself," Hatfield said.
Any sane person would rather face playoff neophytes John Wall and Bradley Beal than Hall of Fame-bound Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this postseason. And any sane person would rather do battle with the fading, fretting, fragile Indiana Pacers than LeBron James and a band of two-time champions.
On Saturday they'll begin playing NBA playoff games on hardwood, but today we'll settle for fleshing them out on paper, which means the Chicago Bulls did pretty darned good Wednesday night, losing the season finale in overtime in Charlotte. It might not sound logical, making the case that losing to the seventh seed on the final night of the regular season could somehow help propel the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals, but that's the case that'll be made here.
The Bulls were very, very unlikely to reach the conference finals going through the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat. OK, the Nets are hardly unbeatable; it's fair to be skeptical of any team, playing close to full strength, that gets blown out of its home season finale by the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony. But the Nets, after starting the season 10-21, finished it 34-17.
The rankings are based on sales during the season at NBAStore.com, figures that were released by the league on Thursday.
Despite playing in only six games this season, Kobe Bryant still finished third in jersey sales. Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who played in only 10 games, finished fourth, and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry rounded out the top five.
Thanks in part to James, who has finished with the top-selling jersey in six of his 11 seasons in the league, the Heat are the best-selling team. The Lakers, Knicks and Celtics finished second, fifth and sixth in merchandise sales, respectively, despite all missing the playoffs.
"Tough team, man," Gibson said after Wednesday night's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. "Tough, tough team. They gave us so many problems in the regular season. Great shooters. They've got some great bigs in Nene and [Marcin] Gortat. John Wall is playing some phenomenal basketball. Bradley Beal is playing great basketball, too. Their bench is even loaded up. I don't know. It's going to be tough, man."
The Bulls respect the Wizards, but they still believe they can beat them.
Let's take a look at a few of the keys in this series:
1. Slowing down Wall
"When he came into the league he was very talented," Hinrich said. "A good player, and just kind of the natural maturation [of a player]. He's gotten to an All-Star level; he's a great player and a great guy so I'm happy for him."
Hinrich's job over the last two weeks will be to make Wall miserable, though. The question for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is how many extra minutes he'll be willing to use Hinrich in the playoffs. After spending the past few years battling various injuries, Hinrich has stayed relatively healthy by playing between 25-30 minutes this season. Thibodeau is going to have to decide how far he wants to push Hinrich because the veteran is clearly his best defensive option.
2. The battle on the blocks
No matter which Bulls player talks about the Wizards, usually one of the of the first things they mention is the big man duo of Nene and Marcin Gortat. The pair has given the Bulls trouble in the past, and it's worth noting the one game the Bulls beat the Wizards in this season was when Nene didn't play because of an injury. In order to win this series, the Bulls must find a way to control the battle between the big men. It will be up to Joakim Noah and Gibson to hold down the fort.
"They got a very tough frontcourt in Nene and (Marcin) Gortat," Noah said. "So we have to be ready for that. They have a great backcourt as well with Wall and (Bradley) Beal. They have a lot of talent so they're definitely a tough matchup. It's not going to be easy. Every game's going to be a tough battle, but I think we're a team that's battle-tested. We know what it takes and this is exciting. You never know what's going to happen in the playoffs. I just can't wait to compete."
3. Butler takes center stage
Since Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland, Jimmy Butler has filled in on the defensive end without missing a beat. The question for him now becomes after a full season of playing 40-plus minutes a night, will he be able to withstand the pressure of the playoffs on both ends of the floor. Butler will be asked to guard Beal and will be looked upon to provide an offensive punch. It's a tall order for the 24-year-old, but one that he's willing to embrace. His teammates believe in him, and he continues to gain more confidence in himself.
"I think we did well," Butler said of the season. "We did what we were supposed to do -- make it to the playoffs. Now it's time to win 16 games and bring the chip home."