Noah happy to see 'Duck' in Houston

HOUSTON -- Joakim Noah and Brad Miller don't appear to have much in common.

Noah is a free spirit who has long curly hair, enjoys wearing beads and outlandish clothing and grew up shuffling between New York City and Paris. Miller is a gun-toting country boy from the Midwest who enjoys hunting, wears overalls and enjoys a good dip.

When Miller was traded back to the Bulls in 2009 all those superficial differences seemed to go away rather quickly. Noah and Miller became fast friends because, among other reasons, they respected the way one another played. Miller enjoyed the energy that Noah brought to each game. Noah admired the way Miller, the grizzled veteran, used other facets of his game to succeed. Over time, the pair became so close that it even surprised Noah a little bit.

"It's going to be tough," Noah said of facing off against Miler. "I never knew that I could have a redneck as a best friend. Brad is probably my best friend in the league. Somebody I learned a lot from. And I miss that Duck."

The Duck misses Noah, too. One of the reasons it was so tough for Miller to leave Chicago this summer was because of the friendship he had with Noah, but the three-year deal, $15 million deal from Houston was too good to pass up. He knows it will be strange facing his former protege, but he is looking forward to the challenge.

"It's always fun though," Miller said. "Especially a guy that you were helping try to get his mind right. To see the way he improved in the short time I was there ... I've been watching him this year. Obviously, I don't want him to have too good of a game [Tuesday] against me, but I've been watching his progress."

Miller, who is averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.4 minutes a game for the Rockets, believes that Noah is on his way to his first All-Star appearance.

"I see it coming in time," Miller said. "I said it early in the year and some people down here were like, 'Really?' And they were listing different centers, and I was like, 'Yeah, he's an All-Star.' Just as long as he's not one [Tuesday]."

If Noah, who is averaging 16.5 points and 13.3 rebounds a game, plays well against his old teammate, he'll be using a lot of the moves that Miller taught him.

"He was always somebody who shared his abilities with the young big guys as soon as he got here," Noah said. "He's somebody who has a great basketball IQ even though his athleticism is pretty limited. He's somebody who definitely understood angles, and he's probably one of the best passing big men the league has ever had."

He's also one of the most popular former Bulls in the league. While it was Noah who grew closest to Miller, the rest of his teammates enjoyed him as well. That's why some of them lined up to see the new Rockets center after their shootaround Tuesday morning. While Miller seems happy in Houston, it's clear that he still has a soft spot for Noah and the rest of his old mates.

"There's positives and negatives in anything," Miller said. "Obviously, you'd like being close to home, but I'm not going to miss the blizzards and the two hours that sometimes [it takes] to get to the games."