Noah has another complaint about Cleveland
Bulls fans can relate to cheering for a team that went from championship contender to potential bottom-feeder during the course of a single off-season.
The same fate has befallen Cleveland, where the Bulls play on Wednesday. Of course, the big difference in this comparison is the Bulls actually won championships before Michael Jordan retired from the team in 1998.
There seems to be plenty of sympathy across the nation for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were spurned on national television by their hometown superstar in July.
Without LeBron James, the Cavs struggled to a 7-13 record heading into Tuesday's contest at Philadelphia.
Even though Joakim Noah was critical of the city ("What's cool about Cleveland?") during last year's playoffs, he could understand the fans' disappointment at watching James pack up and move to Miami.
"I don't remember a situation when a player from his hometown decided to leave," Noah said. "You feel for them."
But when James and the Heat visited Cleveland last week for a one-sided grudge match, Noah believes Cavs fans crossed the line by invoking the name of Bulls legend Scottie Pippen in an effort to taunt their departed star.
"They took a cheap shot at one of our Hall of Fame guys, at Scottie Pippen," Noah said. "I didn't really like that."
Sure, Noah understands the idea behind the chant James will never be a Michael Jordan, one of the all-time greats. Instead, he chose to be sidekick to Miami's Dwyane Wade, the way Pippen played wingman for Jordan.
At this point, though, James still is looking for his first NBA championship. Matching Pippen's six titles would be a dream come true for the Akron native.
"You guys are waiting for this moment for five months and you guys are chanting, 'Scottie Pippen,' a Hall of Fame player with six rings? Like that's a bad thing? Come on now," Noah said.
Bulls newcomer Carlos Boozer knows how it feels to be unpopular in Cleveland. He started his pro career there, then left after two years to sign with Utah after an awkward and controversial transaction with the Cavs.
Boozer was a second-round draft pick, and after two successful seasons the Cavaliers had the right to exercise a third-year contract option that would have paid Boozer a fraction of what he was worth on the open market.
Ex-Cavs owner Gordon Gund agreed not to exercise the contract option, hoping the team could sign Boozer to a long-term contract. Once he became a free agent, though, Boozer signed with the Jazz in 2004.
Boozer was accused of reneging on a handshake agreement to stay with the Cavaliers. But such an arrangement would have been illegal in the NBA, anyway.
After six years in Utah, Boozer's history in Cleveland is all but forgotten.
"It will definitely be different," Boozer said of playing the Cavs without James. "All season, the media has been documenting it, seeing how their team's doing in the post- LeBron era or whatever they call it. They're a very good team. They've got guys who can play.
"I've been playing against Antawn Jamison my whole career. (Forward J.J.) Hickson is playing great; Mo Williams is a great young point guard. They've got good players. They compete every night. I know (Cavs coach) Byron Scott, and every Byron Scott team competes."
Bulls game day
Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 6 p.m. Wednesday
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WMVP 1000-AM
Update: Minus LeBron James, the Cavaliers held the eighth spot in the East heading into last week's game against Miami. The Cavs lost that game by 28 points and had dropped four in a row heading into Tuesday's contest at Philadelphia. The game against the Bulls will be Cleveland's fourth in five nights. Guard Mo Williams is the top scorer at 14.7 ppg., followed by guard Daniel Gibson at 13.2 and veteran forward Antawn Jamison at 12.5.
Next: Los Angeles Lakers at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday
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