Noah comes out on top in matchup vs. Varejao
December 5, 2012, 11:14 pm
CLEVELAND—Prior to Wednesday night’s win over the Cavaliers, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke in glowing terms about Cleveland center Anderson Varejao, the league’s leading rebounder on the young NBA regular season.
“Varejao is playing off the charts. Those rebounding numbers are staggering. I think over the last five games, it’s 19 rebounds a game, 18 points, so he’s scoring, too. It’s not just the rebounds. Scoring, playmaking, toughness, just doing so many different things. Jo’s going to have his hands full, but not just Jo. That’s the responsibility of the entire team. He’s very active. He’s going to make you pay for mistakes. If his guy goes to help, you’ve got to make sure you’re sinking to the body and he’s relentless. He never stops going and those are the type of guys who always rebound big. Just like a shooter gets into rhythm, he gets into rhythm and the more you go, the more you get and he’s proving that,” he gushed.
“[An underrated aspect of Varejao’s game is his] playmaking. He can really pass the ball. He’s clever. He can go from a dribble handoff to a pass and follow. He can slip screens. You can tell he’s been around. He has all the tricks.”
Of course, Thibodeau has a very similar player—down to their eclectic hairstyles—in Joakim Noah, a premier rebounder, top-notch defender, underrated passer and probably a superior offensive talent to his Brazilian counterpart in Cleveland. When the two players, likely vying with each other for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team—although a familiar face in Chicago, former Bull and current Knicks center Tyson Chandler, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, also has an excellent chance and plays for a team with a better record at the moment—matched up Wednesday, not only did Noah’s Bulls come out on top, he equaled Varejao in rebounding at 15 boards apiece, blocked two shots to the Cavs center’s zero and outscored his opponent, 13-11, holding Cleveland’s man in the middle to 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
Afterwards, Thibodeau didn’t exactly change his tune—he’s not the type of coach to downgrade an opposing team’s player—but while he showed Varejao a lot of respect, he also gave Noah credit for a job well done, though making sure to put the team’s performance first.
“It’s a great matchup, but it’s more what the teams are doing, so it’s not a one-on-one game and I thought Jo, overall, his defense was good, his rebounding was good, the playmaking was good and that’s the big thing,” he said. “You tip your hat to Varejao. The guy never takes a possession off, relentless and the thing is, even though he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, (he) never changed his demeanor or the way he was competing. He keeps going, he never stops. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way he plays.”
Noah echoed the coach’s sentiments about the matchup: “Tough player. He rebounds the ball real well. He’s a hard-playing dude. Got to give credit where credit is due. Varejao is a great player.”
“Do I like playing against him? No,” he continued. “I don’t like playing against him. Every time the ball goes up, he’s always going to the glass, he never takes a play off. He’s just a hard-playing dude, good dude, too. I really respect him on and off the court. His brother’s [Sandro, who played at West Virginia in the ‘90s] a friend of mine. Brazilians are usually pretty cool people.”
Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers
, Chicago Bulls
, Joakim Noah
, Anderson Varejao