NEW YORK—For better or worse, not only are the Bulls sticking with injured All-Star center Joakim Noah, but increasing his workload.
Noah, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot, played on 13 minutes and change in Saturday night’s Game 1 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn, but for Monday evening’s Game 2 at the Barclays Center, he’s been cleared to receive more playing time, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“It will be somewhere around 20-25 [minutes],” Thibodeau said during his pregame media availability, in which he confirmed that Noah will be in the starting lineup.
Regarding speculation as to whether he would change his rotation after playing 10 players in Game 1, Thibodeau was vague—“We’ll see how the game unfolds,” was his predictable answer, but the coach did address the Bulls’ adjustment to suddenly having more depth than throughout the majority of the regular season.
“We dealt with it all season long, and I think that’s part of the NBA challenge of an NBA season also, how quickly you can adapt to things. Now the challenge becomes guys coming back. We’re fortunate now where we do have a lot of guys healthier than earlier in the season, so it’s a plus, but we have to get into a rhythm quickly. We can’t use that as an excuse. We have to be tied together. Everything is predicated on five-man offense, five-man defense, so offensively it’s the timing and spacing. Defensively, it’s the intensity and protecting each other,” he said, discussing how the Bulls could improve Monday.
“I think it’s important to look at every game and analyze why you win or lose. You try to make the necessary steps and corrections to move forward. Hopefully you built the right habits over the course of the season. All you can focus on is exactly what’s in front of you. I don’t want them looking behind or ahead. I just want them concentrating on this game.
“We were disappointed obviously in the way we played. We understand the importance of the game. We know we have to play better than we did in Game 1. The challenge is to play for 48 minutes. We can’t allow missed shots to take our energy away from our defense and rebounding. We have to play all aspects of the game,” Thibodeau continued, before he went on to delve into Brooklyn’s improvement and success in Game 1.
“[The Nets are] playing at a very high level. The way they finished the season their last 10 games, Deron Williams is rolling right now. He runs the team great, and they have a number of guys that are very good off the dribble. I thought C.J. [Watson] played extremely well, Joe Johnson is another playmaker. Then of course you have [Brook] Lopez, who has great touch and is a very tough back-to-the-basket guy, and I thought [Gerald] Wallace was very aggressive. Good, quality depth, so they test you in a lot of ways. The initial part of your defense is just that, the initial part, and then it requires a second, third and fourth effort, and you have to finish your defense against these guys. You can play defense for a good part of the clock, but if you relax at all they’re going to make you pay, and of course, [Reggie] Evans with the second shot, that could hurt you, as well.’’