CHICAGO (AP) -Chicago Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said Friday that rookie Joakim Noah's verbal exchange with teammate Ben Wallace is not a big deal and could bring the struggling team closer.
``I think any time you face adversity you find out the true character of the people you're associated with. I'm very pleased with the way our guys handled that controversy,'' Boylan said after the team's morning shootaround in suburban Deerfield.
Noah, who led Florida to back-to-back NCAA championships before the Bulls took him with their first-round pick, directed a verbal outburst at assistant coach Ron Adams during a shootaround last Friday and was suspended for that night's game in Philadelphia.
But his punishment was extended after teammates voted to have him suspended for a second game in Atlanta two nights later. Boylan maintained he had the final say on the punishment.
Two nights later, Noah and Wallace reportedly exchanged words after the Bulls were routed by the Orlando Magic.
Noah did not comment Friday, either at the team's morning workout or before a game against the Golden State Warriors.
``To me, Joakim and his personality is a positive to our team. To me, he's just like a puppy. You get your puppy, you pet him, you play with him, he's fun,'' Boylan said.
``And you wake up the next day and he ate your best pair of shoes and you have to deal with that. After you deal with that, he's still your puppy, you love him and that's the way he is,'' he said. ``We are family here. There's always going to be spats, conflicts, it's only natural. I think it'll only bring us closer.''
The 6-foot-11 Noah, the son of former tennis great Yannick Noah, is averaging 4.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 12.8 minutes for the struggling Bulls. Chicago, which lost to Detroit in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring, took a 15-22 record into Friday night's game.
Boylan was named interim coach one game after Scott Skiles was fired on Dec. 24.
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