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It did not take long for someone to start taking swipes at the Miami Heat. Less than a week after Miami wrapped up its second straight NBA championship with a win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said the Bulls are not conceding the 2014 championship to the Heat just yet.
On Wednesday night, Noah told USA Today that he was not pleased that the Heat, Chicago's biggest rival for Eastern Conference supremacy, won the crown once again. "I was driving in my car and I just didn't feel good about it at all after they won," he said.
But with former MVP Derrick Rose set to return to the Bulls after sitting out the last year recovering from an ACL injury, Noah likes his team's chances against Miami. The two teams met in the conference semifinals this season, with Miami winning four straight after being upset by the Bulls in Game 1 of the series.
The rivalry between the two teams got a little extra juice during the playoffs, when a Miami fan emphatically gave Noah the one-finger salute after he fouled out of Game 2 in Miami.
"I think we're pretty close," Noah said. "We got a lot of work to do. We don't like them, they don't like us, but at the end of the day, you gotta give credit where credit is due. They're a very good team, but we feel like if we’re healthy, we'll have our shot."
"If we're healthy" is a reference to Rose, whose injury dropped the Bulls from the major challengers to Heat supremacy to also-rans. But when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, the Heat still emerged victorious, despite a strong showing from Rose.
But Noah still thinks the Bulls can do what only one team has done in 12 postseason series over the past three seasons: win four games against the Heat.
"Well you know what? It's going to be extra motivation to work extra hard in the offseason and I feel like we'll be the team that beats them next year," he said.