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.
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.