In the midst of all of the excitement surrounding Joakim Noah’s historic triple-double performance in Thursday night’s 93-82 Bulls home win over Philadelphia, the elbow that fellow All-Star Luol Deng took to the face from Sixers center Spencer Hawes in the final minute of the contest almost slipped under the radar.
Deng crumpled to the ground after taking the hit, stayed on the floor during a stoppage of play and immediately retreated to the locker room.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a serious injury—his bottom teeth were loosened and knocked out of position by the blow—and with the Bulls having an off day Friday, he can get treatment for it.
“Jo had so many blocks, so I needed a block, too,” quipped Deng, who was in a good mood afterwards. “I went to get a block and I got elbowed.”
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“I’ve got a really bad headache—no concussion—I’ll probably be in more pain in the morning,” continued the All-Star, who wears a mouthguard, but only for his top row of teeth. “I’m glad the teeth are still in there.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “He just took a shot. I think he’ll be all right. It was a bang-bang play. We’ll see.”
Hamilton a late scratch
Already without top reserve Taj Gibson, the Bulls were also missing starter Rip Hamilton for Thursday night’s game.
The veteran shooting guard had lower back spasms prior to the game and couldn’t suit up.
“His back locked up before the game,” said Thibodeau, who was in a rare good mood after the win. “I may even consult my medical staff.
When asked about playing without another member of the starting lineup on short notice, Noah chimed in: “It’s tough, man. We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries and a lot of adversity, but nobody really cares. The other team doesn’t care, so it’s just on us to find a way to get it done.”
Sixers’ Collins praises Noah
Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins lauded Noah’s effort and the former Bulls coach accurately explained where the All-Star center’s motivation came from.
“Noah, he was spectacular,” Collins said. “He was the difference in the game.
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“Noah is so lively and he’s so active, and he’s just on the move all the time and if you don’t get your body on him, he’s going to give you nightmares around the rim,” he continued. “He’s got a great motor, he plays every play, doesn’t ever take a play off, which is a tremendous quality to have, and even if he’s out on the floor, he’s going to the boards and then he has the speed and quickness to be able to get back, so it’s not like he compromises you and he’s a tremendous pick-and-roll defender.
“He’s a tremendous player, he’s worked on his body, he’s bigger, he’s stronger and make no bones about it, he wants to beat us after what happened in the playoffs last year when he rolled his ankle and it was a tough finish for us, so when he sees us, he’s been very, very good all season long.”
Thibodeau shares minutes philosophy
Noah played exactly 45 minutes to put up his incredible numbers, so when Thibodeau was questioned about the center’s heavy workload, he was ready with a sharp-witted and well-heeled response.
“I’m more from the [Hall of Fame baseball pitcher] Nolan Ryan school. They’re going to pitch. If you have young guys and they can handle the minutes, you play them,” he said. “I understand if a guy’s in his 30s and you’re trying to prolong things, I think you have to be more cautious and monitor those minutes, but this is not anything new. This has gone on in the NBA for a long time. If you have a guy who’s in his prime and he’s a primary player, he’s going to play. That’s the way it is.
“As I’ve told you many times, I sat on that other bench and Jordan, Pippen and Rodman never came out. And the same thing: I sat on that bench, playing against San Antonio when Tim Duncan never came out, so all this stuff about minutes—yeah, I understand that,” Thibodeau continued. “I understand that if a guy’s in his 30s, you manage his minutes. If a guy’s young, he can handle it. Heck, Jordan was playing in the high 30’s until he was 40 years old…Wilt [Chamberlain], he played a few minutes every night.”