Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has praised Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah ahead of their clash in the Eastern Conference semi-finals starting on Monday.
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James has defeated the Bulls the last three times that they have crossed paths in the post-season, but that didn’t prevent Noah from revealing that he was itching to have another crack at him this year.
Chicago arguably have their deepest and most talented roster in years, and with Kevin Love out after shoulder surgery and JR Smith missing for two games due to suspension, the Bulls have their best chance in years to get a win.
However, the two-time NBA champion naturally disagrees and he sounds more than ready for the next battle which starts with Game 1 in Cleveland on Monday night.
“A guy that you hate to compete against but if he’ you’re teammate, you probably, you love him. I’m guessing that’s what it is. But for us, we’ll be ready for the challenge,” James said of Noah, ESPN reports.
“For us, it’s not just Joakim, but he’s one of their glue guys. He plays well, they play well, his energy, his effort, you love to watch him. As a competitor, you hate him, but it’s all for the love of the game.”
James singled out rebounding and turnovers as two key areas for the Cavs to get right in order to advance, and so they will place a greater emphasis on that in a match-up which favours the Bulls in both departments.
Nevertheless, the build up has certainly be intriguing and entertaining, and Noah will expect a hostile reception when he steps out on the court at the Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night after his swipes at Cleveland as a city and the Cavs as a franchise over the years.
Whether or not he can back it up with action on the court to get his team a win remains to be seen, but this undoubtedly is the clash of the semi-finals across both Conferences.