DEERFIELD, Ill.—Their first preseason game has yet to be played, but the Bulls have already been bitten by the injury bug.
All-Star center Joakim Noah was held out of practice for the third consecutive day Friday and will miss the Bulls’ preseason opener Saturday night in Indianapolis due to a groin injury.
“I’m all right. I hurt myself a little bit a couple of practices ago with my groin a little bit. We’re just trying to be smart and I probably won’t play for the first couple of preseason games. It’s unfortunate. I want to be out there real bad but we’re going to be smart and I will be ready when it counts,” Noah said after Thursday’s practice at the Berto Center. “We know there is a long way to go. We know you work really hard in the offseason. The first game you want to be there. It’s unfortunate but I feel like we had a great camp overall as a team. Guys fought really hard and we just have to keep striving for improvement. It’s a groin, I don’t want it to keep lingering for a long time so I’m doing what I can and I’ll be back in no time.”
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Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said that it was a precautionary measure.
“He tweaked his groin,” he said. “We’re just holding him out.
“Just because of where we are right now. He hasn’t practiced in the last three days. I want to let him get some practices where he feels good and then get him out there. At the end of practice, he slipped. We had a problem again today with the floor. We started the scrimmage and had to stop. It’s unfortunate,” Thibodeau went on to explain. “He’s better today. But I want him to get more practices under his belt before he plays in a game. I’m hopeful that tomorrow he’ll do shootaround, and those are treated like practice in the preseason. But I want him to practice where he can practice well before he plays in a game.”
On the bright side, veteran floor general Kirk Hinrich returned to practice Friday after missing two days because of back spasms and is slated to suit up against the Central Division rival Pacers.
“My back was bothering was me, a little bit of back spasms, but I’m feeling much better,” Hinrich said. “I’m feeling pretty good. I had some muscle soreness…I plan on playing.”
While Thibodeau would only say that backup big man Taj Gibson “could” start in Noah’s place, both the coach and the injured player indicated that the reserve would see the bulk of the minutes at center Saturday.
“We were going to do that [play Gibson at center] even if Jo was playing,” Thibodeau acknowledged. “We’ve worked on that throughout camp.”
Noah added: “I think he’s in a great spot right now. Taj has been working his [expletive] off and I think this will be a big year for a lot of our players. Everybody came in in great shape. Taj came in looking great.”