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Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah - Rare Breeds

They didn't shake hands before the opening tip.

Unfortunately, that's news.

But isn't that the way it should be? It's certainly the way it used to be, anyways.

In a league that's become all about friendships and less about enemies, these two certainly haven't conformed to the New Buddies Association.

In fact, it's fair to say they hate each other.

Good. We could use a little of that.

Raise your hand if you're tired of seeing players on your favorite team ham it up with the opposition before the game.

You pay good money to see two teams go at it, right? It should be all out for 48 minutes - sometimes more. And none of this, "Hey, how are ya?" stuff in the midst.

With Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah, two fierce competitors, you get what you pay for - a tornado meeting a volcano. 

Once again, the two didn't disappoint. Back and forth they went with each other for the majority of the game, including the unavoidable double-technical foul handed out in the 2nd quarter.

Garnett has been known to "pick" on opponents. He gets in their head. It's his M.O, and it works. If he can gain any sort of mental edge, to already go along with his physical edge, he will. Not often enough do players give it back to him though.

Noah does - he's not afraid. Matchups like that bring out the best in players, not the bad. Tonight was a perfect example, at least on Garnett's end.

Garnett turned in a vintage performance Friday night, in the mug of Noah's. How does 20 points and 17 rebounds sound? While Noah didn't have a great game by his standards, he's always put up a fight, literally and figuratively, against KG.

"They're both very verbal," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They both play with an amazing amount of energy. And really if you look at the fives and fours historically, fives and fours don't have great energy. They're big and they play well, but they're not energy players. Kevin [Garnett] and Joakim [Noah] are both the same way in that respect."

"They're high, high, energy guys that are multiple effort guys," former Celtics assistant coach and current Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau agreed. "They bring a lot of juice to the team.  Their pursuit of rebounds, and watching Kevin this year, I think Kevin is healthy again. He's rebounding above the rim, he's getting balls outside his area, he's chasing them down. I think Jo [Noah] is similar in that sense."

Noah grew up idolizing Garnett, as did many young NBA players. For that reason it's kind of hard for them to come to terms with the fact that, well, he could care less about them.

"These young guys, they grow up with Kevin on their wall - their favorite player," Brian Scalabrine said. "When they meet him, they think that they know him, but Kevin is a warrior. When he plays, he's playing to kill his opponent. He wants to win, and he'll do anything it takes to win, getting under your skin or whatever, he's going to do it.

"He's not going to be an ambassador or a face of the league or anything like that. He wants to win for the Celtics, and that's the way he plays. So these guys who think that they're going to grow up and be buddies, that's not going to be the case."

Cue Glen Davis.

Asked about Garnett's performance tonight, Davis said, "Oh man, I saw the old KG poster I had on the wall. He was ballin' out there today."

But unlike almost every other player his age in this league, Davis has gotten a chance to get on KG's good side.

According to Davis, and confirmed by everyone, Garnett won't be all buddy-buddy with you, "unless you're on the same team as him. Other than that, he's just a fierce competitor. He doesn't care who comes in."

"It's kind of hard [for young players]," Davis continued. "A lot of guys are hurt. I see a lot of guys hurt, like him not being open and welcome and ‘Welcome to the league...' No, it's not the way he feels."

Noah got that message years ago, and hasn't forgotten.

"I think KG is a competitor," Noah said. "Do I like the way he goes about his business? No, not really. But at the end of the day he's a hell of a competitor. And you know what? He kicked our ass tonight."

The fact that he hasn't been able to get the best of Garnett and the Celtics yet pains Noah. It eats at him.

It should. That's what you want to see out of a player.

"At the end of the day I want to win, and I know he wants to win," Noah told after the game. "They won the last two times ... they kicked our ass tonight, and he played very well. It is what it is. I want to beat Boston. I want to beat Boston more than any other team in the NBA, and we haven't been able to do that yet."

Noah and Garnett have climbed to the top of many NBA fans' "Most Hated" list.

I ask simply, "Why?"

Because they show heart out there on the court? Because they wear their emotions on their, um, jerseys? Since when was it a bad thing to want to win, and do whatever was necessary to win?

While they undoubtedly are different players on and off the court, their desire to finish at the top is something they'll always have in common.

"I think every coach in the NBA would love them both because they both clearly play to win," Rivers said. "That doesn't mean either one of them plays perfect every night. They make their mistakes, but every ounce of them is about winning."

Having played with both players, Scalabrine can agree.

"They're both warriors," he said. "They both want to win. That is what they're similar about. Those two guys, when they play they want to win. Everyone wants to win, but they're intensity is in sync."

Celtics fans; it's easy to hate Noah now. But don't for a second think you'd hate him if he was wearing the Green and White. Vice versa for you Bulls fans on Garnett. There just aren't enough current players with their tenacity.

"It's natural that they're going to clash because they're on opposite teams, you know, when you think about it. They're trying to win, and only one can when they play. So that's a natural thing. That's good though. Hell I wish the whole league was like that every night; that'd be terrific."

It certainly would be.

"You see last night?" Scalabrine asked, referencing the love fest between LeBron James and his former teammates. "It's ridiculous."

"Guys just have to battle more, that's it - like the playoffs. I think it is [a breath of fresh air]."

So before us NBA fans wish the worst upon guys like Noah and Garnett, let's stop and think about what a league without guys like them would be like - the New Buddies Association.

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