CLEVELAND -- Joakim Noah's maturation process this season has been a talking point throughout the NBA.
Players and coaches throughout the league have gone out of their way to praise the third-year center from Florida and Cavs coach Mike Brown is no exception.
When I asked him what the biggest difference was between Noah's game this season and over his first two years, Brown mentioned the "m" word again.
"Just maturity," he said after the Cavs shootaround. "Not to say he was immature last year. We have that same process with a lot of our guys. When I say maturity I'm talking about his confidence level has grown tremendously. And you can just feel it when you watch him play. Offensively, defensively, you know that he knows that he has no questions in his mind. He knows he belongs.
"He knows what he's supposed to do to help his team win. And he's going to go get it done without any fear. You honestly can feel that on every play. Where last year as a young fella every once in a while, you could see just the look in his eye that he might not quite be sure at the moment what he should be doing, or where he should be going, or how it should be handled. But now going through the experiences he went through last year he's starting to blossom into a big-time player, at least the player that everybody thought he could be."
Brown takes blame: The Cavs coach also took the blame for his team's loss earlier this season to the Bulls.
"When we played Chicago early in the season, I still had no clue what I wanted to do," Brown said. "And because of that it had an affect on the players and me being discombobulated made our team discombobulated. Chicago had a lot to do with it, too, because they came in here and they were physical I didn't give our guys any help at all that game."
The Cavs have won 10 of their past 12 games since the Nov. 5 defeat.
Hinrich still out: No news to report on Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls guard, who has been out with a sprained thumb for the past week, will not play Friday night. There is still a chance he will play on Saturday.
"Let's see how he feels before tonight's game," Del Negro said. "How he feels [Saturday] and then well just make a decision. Really, it comes down to when he's comfortable. I know he wants to play and he wants to be out there, it's just that thumb issue is difficult to deal with."
The last word: Brown, while discussing the Random Act of Shaqness earlier today when O'Neal tweeted that he had left a signed Sports Illustrated in a local market for a lucky fan to find: "Hopefully, he won't tweet next time. Hopefully, he'll just e-mail [the location] to my Blackberry, and I'll have at least a head start on everybody else."