Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole

Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole
February 23, 2011, 4:17 pm
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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
12:17 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
TORONTOLadies and gentlemen, with no further adieu30 missed games was more than enoughJoakim Noah is back. After having surgery on his right thumb in December, the center will return to the Bulls lineup Wednesday evening at the Air Canada Centre, ironically the last place he played.

Noah was brief with the media after the conclusion of the teams shootaround Wednesday morning.

Its tough. Last year I missed some games with plantar fasciitis, as well. Very different situation. I think that were playing very good basketball, were a very competitive ballclub and Im very happy to be back, said Noah, who added that his only goal for Wednesdays game was to get a win.

Its just been a tough time. I had to be very patient. Thirty games is a long time, but Im very excited to be a part of it because our ballclub is very competitive and we feel like when were playing at our best, we can compete against anybody, he continued. But we obviously have a lot of work to do and I know I have a lot of work to do. I havent played a game in a long time.

I dont have many expectations. I dont really worry about the expectations. My only expectation is to go out there and give it all Ive got.

Noah has been diligently working to get himself back into shape and during his layoff, could often be seen working out before games and practices with either Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson or going one-on-one with veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine. Still, there will be a difference between conditioning, taking contact and even full practices, and actual games.

Hell be back and hes going to start. Quality big man and he adds a lot in a number of different areas, in terms of how well he passes the ball, how well he rebounds the ball and his energy, so those are where his strengths are and again, I think it adds another quality big to what we have up front, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who told reporters that Noah would likely play in six to eight-minute intervals Wednesday. I just want him to go as hard as he can, right from the start, for as long as he can. Itll be similar to what Carlos Boozer went through. Hes been out for a long time. Hes been out for much longer than Carlos was.

Until he gets out there, we wont quite know, but I think his rebounding, his passing, his energy, those are all things I want him to bring, and then if we have to get him out a little bit earlier, well do that and gradually get him back to his starters minutes," continued the coach, who said Noah would start the game matched up with versatile Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani, a player capable of stretching the defense.

For Carlos, it was quicker," Thibodeau continued. "But Carlos was out a shorter amount of time. But Im not anticipating it being very long. Jos got a great motor, so I think hell adapt very quickly. He did a great job with doing all the conditioning he could possibly do when he was out.

Even with all of the anticipation about Noahs return, however, his teammates arent counting on him to be at top form immediately. Noahs intangibles will make an impact, even in limited doses, but with the Bulls finally whole, chemistry will be something that has to build again.

Were not trying to look at it like that. It could be hard because Jo missed 30 games. Just getting back to playing with him, it could take a little minute. Like tonight, were going to see how it goes tonight, said All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who has consistently expressed his optimism that the Bulls will get back to being more of a fast-break team. Hes a guy thats going to help us, though, with a lot of energy, rebounding, tipping the ball, doing extra stuff on the court. Its going to help us, but were going to see how it goes tonight.

Thibodeau talked about his big-man rotation, with veteran Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik now having to split minutes at backup center.

Thats a hard read right now, until we see Jo out there and I can see how many minutes he can handle. I think we also have to keep in mind where were going for the playoffs and adding to the rotation right now would be difficult, but Im not ruling it out either, said Thibodeau. Whoever does play, I like the depth that we have up front and a big part of it will be the matchups.

Without saying it, Thibodeau implied thats more of a good problem to have than a drastic concern. With a full roster and in the thick of the chase for a No. 1 playoff seed in the East, the supposedly under-the-radar Bulls could be flying even higher very soon.

Perhaps Noah summed it up best: The potential is definitely there, but its all about putting the pieces together and playing our best basketball at the right time. I think its going to take a little time. Im just really excited about being able to get back on the court.

Aggrey Sam is's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.