Noah doesn't think KG's so bad after all

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Noah doesn't think KG's so bad after all

BOSTON -- Maybe, just maybe, Joakim Noah doesn't think Kevin Garnett is so bad.

There is a little piece of him that actually likes Garnett for intensity and appreciates his passion that gets under the skin of players around the league.

But before we get to those underlying emotions, let's go back to his sentiments on the surface.

On Friday the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls tangled in yet another battle. This time, the Derrick Rose-less Bulls beat the Avery Bradley-less Celtics, 100-99 in overtime. There were plenty of tense moments between Garnett and Noah and the hostility could be felt across the court.

Following the game, Noah discussed limiting Garnett to 5-for-16 shooting by playing tough defense and contesting his shot. Then he went a step further in his analysis.

"He's a hell of a competitor," said Noah. "He's always on some bulls. (What does that mean?) Just trying to throw elbows, cheap shots, just trying to get you off your game. But he's a vet, he's been doing this a long time, but it's alright."

There was a time when Noah deemed Garnett "a dirty player." Reflecting on that now, Noah said, "I feel like I was young, maybe talking a little bit too much. What happens on the court should stay on the court and I was pretty vocal about it but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning or losing basketball games. It doesn't matter, you don't have to like your opponents, it's alright."

When asked if he thought Garnett crosses the line when he plays, Noah replied no, before adding, "When we lose, I feel like he crosses the line. But since we've been beating their a, I'm cool with it."

Noah is now 27, about to turn 28 next month. He is in his sixth NBA season, long enough for him to know how to manage his emotions. He has learned opposing players are not there to be his friend. No matter who he looked up to as a child, unless they are wearing the same uniform as him, they are out to beat him. That was a challenging reality for him to understand early on and one of the reasons why he was so taken aback by and vocal about Garnett's demeanor.

Coming to that realization has given him an appreciation for Garnett. It is a feeling wrapped up tightly in layers of competitiveness, but it's there nonetheless.

"The thing is, when I was a kid I used to wear Kevin Garnett jerseys," he said. "I used to have his poster and his jersey and I would wear it proud. I guess it's part of growing up and being part of the league. You can't be a fan anymore, you've got to compete against these guys. He made me learn that, and I kind of like it, because from that day on, I would never, ever go up to somebody before a game or during a game and show my appreciation or something like that, or show what they meant to me. Because of KG, I will never, ever, ever do that again. It was embarrassing."

Noah refuses to be humiliated on the court. He gets in a zone before playing the Celtics, which begins the day prior to the matchup. Garnett has shut down players before, and Noah will not let himself be one of them. For that, he actually likes taking on the future Hall of Famer.

"Yeah, I do (enjoy playing against someone like Garnett) because I know that if I don't come ready to play, I know that he's going to embarrass me," he said. "I would never, ever go out before a game before I play KG. I would never ever. I'm always ready to play when I play Boston because I know a guy like that, if you don't come ready to play, he will embarrass you."

Garnett and Noah are driven apart by a commonality. They just want to win and their opponent, whether it is a childhood idol or longtime friend, is in their way. Noah doesn't expect to grab coffee with Garnett and get together in the offseason -- "Cool? No, he wants to win and I want to be win. I don't think it will ever be cool," he said -- but now he is at a point in his career where he is able to appreciate their differences that make them similar.

"We've had a lot of battles, but I respect his grind," Noah said. "I respect the way he competes."

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Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

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Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized. 

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.