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Friday, September 16, 2011
Joakim Noah wins

By Henry Abbott

David Thorpe was writing about draft prospect Anthony Davis, and compared him to Joakim Noah:
When I consider his story -- he was a guard until a late, and huge, growth spurt sent him to power forward/center -- it makes me think of the similar story of one of the best big men in the NBA today: Joakim Noah.

In the span of five seasons as his team's starting center, Noah's won two national titles at Florida and now plays for the Chicago Bulls, which had the NBA's best record in 2010-11. (The Bulls are also the league's best defensive team.)

Noah, who has the hottest motor running of any 7-footer I've ever seen, can thank his feel for the game for much of his success. Most of that comes from being a guard for much of his early career.

Also worth noting: The Bulls did all that with low salaries.

A day later, you know what happened? The French, with that very same Joakim Noah anchoring the defense, beat Russia to qualify for the Olympics -- for the first time in Tony Parker's career. They'll play Spain in the EuroBasket final on Sunday. Chris Sheridan notes that Noah was part of some key late plays:
Batum added yet another dunk, this one a game-sealer off a pass from Noah, with 1:47 left to make it 75-66 and end all doubt, and the French players ran over to their cheering section, jumped the barrier and danced with their fans after the final buzzer sounded.

“It’s like a dream come true, a dream I’ve been chasing for 11 years,” said Tony Parker, whose 22 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds kept him a leading candidate to be named MVP of this tournament. “I had tears in my eyes when the buzzer came, and it’s hard to describe.

“I believed it was our year, and after 11 years chasing I can finally say we’re playing in the Olympics,” Parker said.

Now's not the time for some long essay about whether or not that's coincidence. But the fact remains: teams with Joakim Noah on them do better than can be expected.