After making his season debut in the Bulls’ last game, Wednesday night’s exhibition home-opening win at the United Center, All-Star center Joakim Noah’s lingering strained groin will keep him out of commission for approximately a week, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau announced after the team’s morning shootaround Friday.
“We’re going to shut Jo down. He’s got a little soreness so we want to make sure we get that taken care of, so probably another week or so. We just want to make sure he’s completely healthy before we move forward. His groin. It’s better, but it’s not where we would like it to be. Like we want it completely healthy where he doesn’t feel it, and right now he’s feeling it, so we have to take care of that,” Thibodeau said. “We want him to focus on the rehab right now. Like put everything you have into the rehab, and when we get close we’ll see where he is in a week. Because of where we are in the season, too, we want to make sure it’s completely healed.
“We want to make sure that we get that [soreness] out and taken care of. His feet are really good, so that’s a plus. Overall, his timing wasn’t great [Wednesday] like it usually is, but defensively his reaction to the ball was terrific and his defense was outstanding, so that part was good, and there are things he can do right now. He’s in the pool, so he’s taking care of his cardio that way and he’s doing a lot of band work, so it’s good,” he continued. “This is what you go through during the season. It gives Naz more work, Taj has played more five than normal, which is good, I think he needed that work. Taj and Carlos is good. It’s given us an opportunity to take a look at Murphy at the four, so you try and take advantage of it that way."
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As the deadline for the Bulls to pare down their roster to 13 players approaches, Noah’s injury could give center Dexter Pittman an advantage. Thibodeau didn’t disagree that a “big man”—that would technically include power forward D.J. White, who saw his first preseason action Wednesday—“could” have the edge, though veteran journeyman point guard Mike James is familiar with to both the organization and the coach himself.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it could. We’re looking at what our needs are, and as I said, the one good thing is Jo has only played 19 minutes in the preseason. It has given us a look at Nazr, Taj, Murph, and we also know that we have Luol who can go to the four, Jimmy who can go to the four, we have Mike Dunleavy who can go to the four,” Thibodeau explained. “That’s what I like about this team, the versatility. We’re still evaluating, and in the end we’ll do what’s best for the team.’’
Meanwhile, starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler is a game-time decision for Friday’s contest, as he recovers from a bruised left knee suffered in last Saturday’s win in Brazil.
“A little bit better, we’ll see where he is tonight,” Thibodeau said of Butler’s status. “He didn’t do all of [the shootaround], but we’ll see.”