Griz­zlies

The Commercial Appeal - - Busi­ness -

Noah roared in frus­tra­tion at his mi­nor mis­cues dur­ing his first ac­tion in the sec­ond quar­ter. Then, he roared in tri­umph as he helped lift the Griz­zlies out of a sec­ond half rut with four cru­cial points at the end of the third quar­ter and be­gin­ning of the fourth.

In be­tween, the 2014 NBA De­fen­sive Player of the Year jumped off the bench to cel­e­brate the feats of his team­mates as the team's new­est de­fen­sive stop­per made his pres­ence felt while the Griz­zlies held the Clip­pers 12 points be­low their pre­vi­ous sea­son-low.

"It was a grimy game, and that’s kind of what Mem­phis Griz­zlies are known to do," Noah said. "Win grimy games.”

Noah seems to fit the iden­tity. With his curly bun and scrag­gly fa­cial hair, Noah looks the same as he did while gar­ner­ing big-time hon­ors with the Chicago Bulls for nine sea­sons. But he is at a point in his ca­reer where any as­pi­ra­tions of van­ity or a fea­tured role on the court have taken a back­seat to sim­ply want­ing to play.

Griz­zlies coach J.B. Bick­er­staff ac­knowl­edged as much be­fore Wed­nes­day's game by not­ing the in­creased amount of trash talk that Noah brought to his first prac­tice with the Griz­zlies on Tues­day. Star rookie Jaren Jack­son Jr. picked up on Noah's ex­cite­ment on the court Wed­nes­day as Noah helped the Griz­zlies sti­fle the Clip­pers.

Did you see him?" Jack­son said. "Oh yeah. He’s added en­ergy from the mo­ment he walked into this build­ing. You can just feel it. He’s al­ways hyped about what­ever it is. Scream­ing, yelling, you saw it. All that. He’s do­ing ev­ery­thing. We love that. So that’s pos­i­tive.”

Fi­nan­cially, the pay­out Noah is re­ceiv­ing through the stretch pro­vi­sion on the re­main­der of a four-year, $72 mil­lion con­tract with the New York Knicks is enough to make a one-year, min­i­mum deal with the Griz­zlies feel like pocket change.

And if he were in it for the spot­light, Noah came to the wrong city. A mem­ber of the Griz­zlies' me­dia re­la­tions team es­corted Noah to an in­ter­view with NBA TV after Wed­nes­day night's game.

Some me­dia who fol­lowed the Clip­pers to town from Los An­ge­les were in town for Noah's re­turn.

But, Mem­phis, as Noah noted, is a sim­pler place than the hy­per-in­tense mar­kets of Chicago and New York where he played be­fore.

At­ten­tion from na­tional me­dia on Noah's NBA re­turn may spike for a while. It will be a big deal when he re­turns to Madi­son Square Gar­den on Feb. 3 to face the Knicks, his old team.

Even­tu­ally, how­ever, it will just be about bas­ket­ball in the sim­ple place that Noah feels blessed to now in­habit.

“I’m here alone," Noah said. "I left my fam­ily be­hind. I’m here be­cause I love to play bas­ket­ball. It wasn’t be­cause of money. It wasn’t be­cause of any of those things. It was be­cause I want to play bas­ket­ball and I want to be with a good group. "I’m cher­ish­ing all these mo­ments.” Reach Griz­zlies beat writer David Cobb at [email protected]­mer­cialap­peal.com or on Twit­ter at @DavidWCobb.

ARIEL COB­BERT, THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

Mem­phis Griz­zlies cen­ter Joakim Noah (55) bat­tles Los An­ge­les Clip­pers for­ward Mike Scott (30) for a lose ball dur­ing the sec­ond half of a NBA bas­ket­ball game in the Fedex Fo­rum on Wed­nes­day.

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