TORONTO -- As Tom Thibodeau watched the All-Star Game on Sunday night, he started to feel a little trepidation for his center, Joakim Noah. The game wasn't unfolding in a way in which Noah could showcase his skills and Thibodeau knew it.
"The second quarter, I was a little nervous watching him," Thibodeau admitted after Tuesday's practice. "Because all I saw him do was take the ball out of the net. And I said, 'Please, just get a bucket and an assist and a rebound. And then get out.' But I thought he was great. The fourth quarter, I think it was a lot of fun for him. I think he's gotten real comfortable. I think any time you can have that experience it's a big plus. And I think he continues to learn and grow from those situations. But I thought he played really, really well in the fourth quarter. When the game got serious it was good."
Noah played a bulk of the fourth-quarter minutes in the East's victory over the West, a fact that he was very proud of because of the defensive intensity he brought to the table.
"It felt good," he said. "It felt good to win and I'm happy and I feel good that I was in the game. I wanted to be in the game and it's just a good feeling to be able to play at the end."
So what's it like trying to play defense in the All-Star game?
Noah had to smile a little bit as he tried to answer the question.
"It's a lot easier when you have your rotations in place," he said. "We work on our rotations every day in practice -- so it's tough."
Aside from Noah's defense, the other thing that became apparent as he played in the league's showcase game was the ease with which he played alongside Miami Heat star LeBron James -- a fact that was lost on few who watched the final few minutes unfold.
"It's kind of scary to imagine [Noah and James] playing together as teammates," TNT analyst Steve Kerr said during the telecast. "With their talents and the way they approach the game."
Noah didn't even want to answer a question regarding playing with James, while Thibodeau tried to downplay the pairing before Bulls' fans heads exploded at the thought of seeing Noah and James actually playing together for real.
"LeBron's probably pretty good with just about anybody," Thibodeau cracked. "He might be good with me. It's funny, when you watch those games, it says a lot about the players, and the greatness of all the players, great players always figure it out. They do. They know how to make it work. They know, 'OK, this is going to work in this situation.' And that's a credit to all of them. The league does a phenomenal job with the whole weekend."
It's a weekend Noah won't soon forget, but now he wants to help his team stay on track as it heads toward the playoffs and another possible meeting with James and the Heat.
"I had a great time," Noah said. "Now it's back to work, happy to be back in the Chi."