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updated: 4/23/2014 12:55 AM

Joakim Noah makes his father, Yannick, a believer

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  • After receiving the NBA defensive player of the year award Monday, the Bulls' Joakim Noah, left, talks with his father -- tennis star Yannick Noah.

      After receiving the NBA defensive player of the year award Monday, the Bulls' Joakim Noah, left, talks with his father -- tennis star Yannick Noah.
    Associated Press


Yannick Noah is both an accomplished tennis pro and popular musician.

On Monday in Lincolnshire, he talked about doubting his son Joakim's own dreams of playing in the NBA.

"He was too skinny," Yannick said after Joakim accepted the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. "Couldn't shoot, couldn't jump, couldn't do a lot of things. The only thing I knew he had was his drive. That was unbelievable.

"We would take him to games and he'd play like two minutes and be all excited because he had a rebound. That was amazing. The funny thing is he's still like that. He's still excited about playing, about winning, about his teammates. He's still excited about basketball."

Yannick Noah, the 1983 French Open champ, recalled watching Joakim play basketball while sitting with Tyrone Green, the influential coach who died last week.

"He told me, 'I'll get him there.' I said, 'Where are you going to get him? To the next tournament? ABCD camp?' He said, 'No, we're gonna get him to the NBA,'" Yannick said. "I never believed, even though it was Joakim's dream. Now, every time he is introduced at the United Center I just can't believe it."

Even before Joakim moved to New York at age 13, he followed the NBA closely from France.

"I used to try to go out and get some (basketball) cards signed. Cost me a fortune," Yannick said. "He used to collect these things. He had all the cards, knew all the teams, the sixth man, seventh man, had the shirts, the magazines, back in the day the VHS (tapes).

"When I hear his name mentioned with those names, I am shocked. These are the guys of my generation I used to love watching on TV and telling him about. It's amazing."

Thibs gets third place:

San Antonio's Gregg Popovich was named NBA coach of the year Tuesday. Popovich edged Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek, while Tom Thibodeau finished third.

Popovich became the third coach in history to win the award three times, joining Don Nelson and Pat Riley. Popovich previously won in 2003 and '12.

Popovich received 59 first-place votes, compared to 37 for Hornacek and 12 for Thibodeau. Charlotte's Steve Clifford finished fourth in voting by media members.

"It's great. They had a terrific season. He's one of the all-time greats," said Thibodeau, who won the award in 2011. "They do it year after year. His record speaks for itself."

The top two finishers have Chicago-area ties. Popovich is from Merrillville, Ind., while Hornacek attended Lyons Township High School in the Western suburbs.

Wizards enjoy the road:

Winning on the road is nothing new for Washington. The Wizards had the same record (22-19) at home and on the road this season, finishing tied with Miami and Toronto for most road wins in the Eastern Conference.

"I just think it's a mental thing," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "Mentally, we crossed a hurdle. Once the season started and we started winning on the road, it's a belief that you can go in any arena and have an opportunity to win. They've carried that pretty much all year long. It's a good accomplishment and it's an important one for this group, because we've struggled the last couple years on the road."

Beal goes thin crust:

Wizards guard Bradley Beal sent out a photo of a Giordano's pizza box Monday, but later explained he doesn't go for true Chicago-style pizza.

"I can't eat the fat pie, whatever it's called, the deep dish pizza," he said at Tuesday's shootaround, according to CSN Washington. "I can't eat that. I had the regular thin one. I didn't eat a lot (of the deep dish). It'll just sit there (in your stomach) and you'll be in the bathroom for hours."

For the record, Derrick Rose endorses Giordano's and has said his favorite is the thin crust.

Bulls assists drop:

The Bulls were credited with just 13 assists in the Game 1 loss to Washington, just 2 off their season low.

"It's a good question," coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked to explain. "One, I think we missed some shots. There were a high amount of fouls, so it wasn't a free-flowing game and that was for both teams. We had 26 free throws and they had 35. So when you have that, you're not going to have high assists in the game. That's an area we're concerned with."

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