Those who think Joakim Noah should be home resting his foot instead of participating Sunday in the NBA All-Star Game might not realize how significant this moment is for him.

Lakers center Dwight Howard understands.

“Joakim was the water boy, the towel boy,” Howard said. “He really didn’t play that much basketball, but he kept working, and all his hard work is paying off.”

Howard and Noah have been playing against each other for years. When they first met, however, Noah was a gawky kid from New York via Paris who was still trying to learn the game.

They were at Sonny Vaccaro’s invitation-only camp in Hackensack, N.J. Noah wasn’t invited, but his high school coach was in charge of security, so he was allowed to sleep in his room and fetch water and towels for players.

Now he’s competing in his first All-Star Game.

“It’s another reason why I feel so lucky to be here right now,” Noah said. “I know that I came from very far when it comes to basketball. To be the water boy and to know some guys remember me as the water boy, and now I’m in this position. It’s special to me.”

Don’t expect Noah to log major minutes because he’s still recovering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which forced him to miss three games before the break.

Noah said he already has spoken with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about his role. Spoelstra, who’s coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars, plans to talk to Noah again before determining how many minutes he’ll log.

“I’ll be very judicious and work with him and have an understanding of what he has been through,” Spoelstra said. “Health is the most important thing for guys this weekend, but they do want to experience this, as well. We can manage everything.”