Noah needs surgery, could miss 10 weeks

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Noah needs surgery, could miss 10 weeks

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Posted 7:49 PM Updated 11:33 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

TORONTO Perhaps Taj Gibson summed it up best: It seems like we just cant get a break.

Thats even more fitting since Gibson will be one of the Bulls most responsible for filling in for Joakim Noah, as the charismatic center is slated for surgery on a torn ligament in his right thumb Thursday, as first reported Tuesday night by the Chicago Tribune.

Im not playing at a high level. Its hurting, said a dejected Noah after Wednesdays 110-93 Bulls win over the Raptors. Ive got to take anti-inflammatories every time I play. I cant practice. I have to get right and get back to this team.

Im going to miss playing with the guys. Its frustrating because I think we have a chance to be really, really good and Ive never been in a situation where were winning like this, but I know that in the long run, this is what needs to be done, continued Noah, who noted that he had the same surgery on his left hand while in high school. It sucks. Its not what I wantIve been playing through it for a couple weeks now and Ive got to get back to playing at a high level.

Noah, who recorded a typical double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night the teams medical staff determined before the game that he could do no further damage by playing reportedly could miss 10 weeks of action for the Bulls, who are currently on a seven-game winning streak.

Joakims injury presentation was unusual in that he was able to function at a high level with the injury. More often, athletes are unable to play at all due to pain and instability of the thumb, said Brian Cole, the Bulls team doctor.

Added Bulls general manager Gar Forman: As the days proceeded from the original injury, it became clear for all that surgery was best for Joakim.

We have always valued Joakims toughness and willingness to put the team above himself, but in this case his health took precedence.

Noah has also been dealing with sprains in his right index and middle fingers. Since the initial injury, which first occurred in the Bulls Nov. 27 win in Sacramento, Noah has been in discomfort and has noticeably struggled with his underrated shooting and ball skills, although hes still made an impact with his energy, defense and rebounding ability.

First of all, not being able to practice. Not being able to shoot, use my right hand as much as I want, said Noah of how the injury has affected him. Every time I pass, every time I dribble, it hurts.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, while obviously not pleased that Noah will miss extended time, is optimistic that the team will survive in his absence.

Its disappointing for Jo, but for us, were confident in the ability of the guys that we have. We have more than enough to win with. Taj has played extremely well for us. Kurt has played well for us. Luol has played well at the four, so we have a number of players that can step up Omer so we keep moving, said Thibodeau, who told reporters that he hasnt settled on Noahs replacement yet.

Were looking at whats best for him right now and I think, long-term, its the right decision. Its unfortunate, but thats a part of the game. Guys get hurt and when theyre injured and they need surgery, they have to do itwere confident that we have more than enough to win with.

One through 14, I have a lot of confidence in all the guys and when you look at our bench, we have several players who have started a number of games in this league, Thibodeau went on to say. If you look at last year, what Kurt did in Milwaukee when he was called upon, he stays ready, so you always have confidence in his ability and I think what he also does is he gives you a tremendous low-post defender and he gives you a pick-and-pop player in the pick-and-roll, which will add to what Derrick is doing out there.

Taj has played extremely well, so his minutes will be increased. I was trying to figure out a way to get him more minutes. I like Lu at the four. You cant say enough about what Lu has done this year. Hes played the two, the three, the four, hes guarded all those positions, hes made a lot of big plays for us, a lot of intangibles, he gets to loose balls, he rebounds. So, his minutes will go back up also.

Of Noahs potential replacements, Gibson is most familiar with filling in for his teammates, having done so when ex-Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas missed time early last season and stepping in for Carlos Boozer to start this campaign.

It seems like we just cant get a break. As soon as I got into the league, Tyrus got hurt. This year, we were expected to come in so fired up, then Booz got hurt. Now, Joakim, one of the vocal leaders of this team, goes down. Its a lot for a team to go through, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. It just prepares guys. Like Coach says, guys are just going to have to step up. Omers going to have to play big. Even me, Ill play big once again. But were optimistic, we know whats ahead of us, and guys are ready to step in.

We should be able to replace Noahs energy, but it happens first in practice. It happens with guys getting each other better. Were going to have to step up and just man up. Were trying to go deep in the playoffs this year and be one of the top teams in the East, he continued. Were confident. We have to be confident. Whenever you feel down, somebodys going to knock you down again and try to keep you down. You have to keep being optimistic, keep your head up and keep going.

Kurt Thomas, who filled in for Bucks star center Andrew Bogut at the end of last season, as Milwaukee almost upset the Atlanta Hawks, in the first round of the playoffs, is also accustomed to substituting for key players.

Im just going to go out there and do my job when my numbers called. Thats what Ive been doing my whole career. Just go out there and play, said Thomas, at 38 one of the leagues oldest players. I havent been out there with those guys really yet, but when were in practice, its a lot of fun. We compete against each other, but Im definitely looking forward to going out there on the floor. Ive just got to wait until he Thibodeau calls my number.

Injuries are a part of the game. Ive definitely had my share of injuries over my career and when the opportunitys there, youve just got to take advantage of it, go out there and compete, play both ends of the floor just continue to do what Ive been doing my whole career.

Noahs fellow team captains are saddened by his injury, but believe the Bulls will be able to keep their current momentum going even without their man in the middle.

Its going to be tough. Weve got a lot of guys in the locker room that can step up, but Jo is a big piece of what were trying to do. Hes a big piece of our team every night, so its just going to be an adjustment every night and its something that he needs to get better. Weve got to. Weve got no choice. Its tough to replace Joguys that werent playing much minutes are going to have to step up, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com.

You never want to go through it, but youve got to take the positives out of every situation. I know its going to be tough on Jo to sit out, but hes got to understand that he needs to and weve got bigger goals right now to have him play with an injury like that, and not helping us later on. Just take care of the problem and well do the best we can until he gets back, and well be a better team when he gets back.

I have total confidence in the guys that we have in this locker room. We showed it before with Boozer being out and even when Derrick missed that one game, we had guys step back. You dont want to be in that situation, but its not the worst thing ever.

Boozer, who missed the first two months of the season after suffering a broken fifth metacarpal during training camp, especially sympathizes with Noahs plight.

I just told him to keep his head up. Obviously I started the season with something similar. Mine was a bone, his was a ligament. I told him well try to hold it down for him. Weve got guys that are going to have to step up big. Taj Gibson is capable of it, big Omer is capable of it and myself, as well, so weve all got to step up in his absence, said Boozer.

Im going to tell you: Hes a warrior for playing through it for two or three weeks. Youve got to take your hat off to him for giving up his hand for us for as long as he has.

Obviously wed rather be playing with Jo. Let me make that point clear: Wed rather have Jo out there. But we know hes got to take care of his hand for the long run. We want him healthy 100 percent healthy come playoff time, and weve got to hold it down without him. Weve got to step up and play great without Jo out there. Weve got confidence in the guys that are going to be playing in his absence, but we also wish him a speedy recovery, he added.

We knew a few days ago, but he wanted to play tonight and he did a great jobhes a warrior and hes been that way since Ive been here. Hes been like that since before I got here, so again I say we take our hats off to him for playing through the pain he has for the last two or three weeks. We wish him a speedy recovery to get back because were going to need him down the stretch.

Derrick Rose, who came into Wednesdays game as a major injury concern himself, expressed confidence that the Bulls would be able to ride out the storm without Noah.

Its going to hurt us, but as a team, I think that well continue to play hard and theres no excuses in this league. Weve still got to go out here and play these games, said Rose, who played through soreness in his right elbow and hip in the aftermath of an injury scare Monday night. The people thats coming in for him, theyre going to have to ball, period. Youre going to have to come in and give us the energy that he was giving us.

Its hard replacing Joakim. Booz, we never really got a chance to play with him until now, so we didnt have time to just replace him like thatbut just losing Jo just out of nowhere, its going to be tough, he continued. Just his energy and what he brings to the game, its going to be different.

Its going to be hard, but I think our confidence is up right now and the way were playing basketball, I think our defense will have to carry us throughout the whole time that hes out.

Noah, who is averaging 14.2 points (on 51.1 percent field-goal shooting), 11.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 blocked shots and 1.2 steals per game, will have Thursdays surgery performed at Rush University Medical Center. The Bulls will hold an afternoon press conference, during which Forman and team trainer Fred Tedeschi will address the media.

Well be fine. Were very good, we have a great team and thats whats frustrating, not being able to play with these guys, said Noah before the Bulls departed Toronto and headed back to the Windy City. Ive had a little time to think about whether I was going to get the surgery or not, but I think its the right thing to do.

I spoke to my family and decided its the best thing to do right now. I got a lot of support from my teammates and the coaching staff, and Pax Bulls executive John Paxson and Gar. Theyre behind me and I think this team, obviously has a lot of potential and in the long run, could be something special.

With the goal in mind to make it back for that aforementioned something special rather than jeopardize his season in the middle of a hot streak, Noahs team-first mentality has never been more evident.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com'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.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?

2016-17 NBA Preseason Primer: Offseason winners

2016-17 NBA Preseason Primer: Offseason winners

Leading up to Bulls' preseason opener and beyond, Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman will preview the upcoming NBA season with daily features on everything related to the Association. Today the pair analyze which team had the most impressive offseasons.

Mark Strotman: So we're not beginning our nine-day NBA primer with the most difficult discussion, but we'll delve deeper than the top of the class to go over the league's offseason winners. Still, it's not difficult to peg the Golden State Warriors at the top of the class. All Steve Kerr's group did a year ago was rewrite the NBA history books with an offensive onslaught, win 73 games in the regular season and tout the sport's first unanimous MVP. They had a near-perfect season before LeBron James became Optimus Prime and kept them from back-to-back titles.

So what did they do in July? They went and signed this generation's greatest scorer, Kevin Durant, to a max deal (not to mention they replaced Harrison Barnes with him). It's not as simple as plugging Durant and his numbers from a year ago into the Warriors' system, as there will clearly be some sacrificing in the form of touches and shot attempts (looking at you, Klay Thompson). But Kerr and his coaching staff will figure it all out and turn an already all-time great offense into an unimaginable force.

Past Durant, they swapped out Andrew Bogut with Zaza Pachulia. It's an upgrade in talent but I'm not sure it's an upgrade in fit. The Warriors needed to deal Bogut to make room for the Durant signing, and taking a hit at center was well worth it. Adding David West will help a second unit that lost Mo Buckets, and it adds another veteran presence who's chasing a ring a year after signing with the Spurs. I also loved their draft selection of UNLV shooting guard Patrick McCaw, a potential 3-and-D guy down the road who will get ample time to learn behind one of the league's best two-way players in Thompson.

OK, Vinnie. I took the softball toss and chose the Warriors as the offseason winner. Take the brunt on this one and give me a team whose offseason will propel them to a significant difference in 2016-17.

Vinnie Goodwill: Yes, you definitely took the easy road and I won’t disagree with you on the Warriors being most improved. Anytime you have the last three regular-season MVP’s on your roster, you win the offseason. Do they have questions, serious questions? Yes. No more Andrew Bogut is big. See the freeway down the lane in Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals without him there, and he won’t easily be replaced.

But since the Warriors were taken, I’ll take an under the radar team that should challenge for a playoff spot this season, the Orlando Magic. For the last three years they’ve been slowly building with pieces and draft picks in the wake of Dwight Howard’s departure and they’ve cashed a few in for some veterans to grow up and speed up the rebuild.

Serge Ibaka seemed like the odd man out in Oklahoma City and although his play has plateaued, he doesn’t seem like the type that will suffer a precipitous fall in the near future. Adding Bismack Biyombo means they’ll have a long, shot-blocking group on the backside of the defense that can cover baseline to baseline. Trading Victor Oladipo, as painful as it probably was, frees things up for Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja on the perimeter. Expecting Aaron Gordon to take another step in his development, while sliding to small forward, can be a slight concern but he’s got star potential.

More than anything, though, they got rid of the toxic presence known as Scott Skiles and replaced him with a real coach who has a history of developing young talent while not simultaneously spontaneously combusting in Frank Vogel, who was let go in Indiana. Vogel earned the trust of his young guys as they went through being have-nots to contenders until Paul George’s devastating injury before the 2014-15 season.

They have a good combination of youth, scoring and although it could take 30 games to mesh, I’m pretty confident the Magic will be a force in the East this season.

MS: I'm also interested to see what Vogel can do with Elfrid Payton. Skiles never seemed to fully give him the keys to the offense, and his minutes per game last season somehow went down from his rookie campaign. I see a bright future for Payton, and Vogel should help move that along.

I began the discussion with the Warriors, so naturally I'm going to shift gears and throw out the Sixers as another team that made significant strides. Wait, what? Seriously. The Process finally yielded a first overall pick, and they wisely used it on a player in Ben Simmons who I believe can be transcendent for the franchise. He's that talented. Forget concerns about his lack of a killer instinct or jumper. I'm not worried about his attitude. There's not another player like him in the league with a combination of interior moves, transition ability and passing acumen. I'm giddy to watch him.

But Philadelphia didn't stop with Simmons. Grabbing Timothe Luwawu (24th overall) and Furkan Korkmaz (26th) are both wings with plenty of upside; Luwawu showed flashes in Summer League. They'll also finally get to see what their 2014 draft class can do when a (fingers crossed) healthy Joel Embiid takes the floor for the first time. And Dario Saric, who went No. 10 that year, is finally coming over. In 24 Euroleague games last season he went 50/40/90 and was his team's second-leading scorer.

With so many youngsters in the fold it was great to see them (relatively) active in free agency by signing Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson. They also added Elton Brand, who should act more as a mentor for their trio of talented bigs in Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel -- while we're on that topic, they'll have to deal one of them at some point. Robert Covington is also one of the more underrated players in the East.

Brett Brown is the right man for the job, and while they're still a few years away from thinking playoffs you can finally see the pieces starting to come together. They've got their face of the franchise in Simmons, and if Embiid can get past his severe injury troubles the Sixers might also have a dominant big down the road.

The bar was set pretty low for the Sixers to improve on what they've done the last four years, but this was a massive offseason. If only Sam Hinkie were still around to see it through...

VG: Did you just say Philly? I might've forgotten the 76ers as the biggest offseason winners of all! Do we know if Ben Simmons will be the next LeBron James, or even the next Lamar Odom? No. Do we know if Joel Embiid will stay healthy enough to show what made him the object of affection before the draft a couple years ago? No.

But what we do know is the ill-fated "Process", no matter how it's framed by defenders (not pointing any fingers in your direction, Mr. Deerfield), was an abject embarrassment to the league and one of its flagship franchises. Getting rid of Sam Hinkie makes the 76ers a winner in every way that counts, before they even win a game. We won't see if his residue will trickle down to other teams that want to try a hand at this "tanking for years" strategy but the pain the 76ers have felt won't automatically turn around.

But they do have a plan, and it's something that revolves around being a respectable franchise compared to rigging the system in a way that felt Ponzi-esque. Just having mere competence is a step up, and some of the actual pieces can play so they'll start moving in the right direction.

Another offseason winner? The Minnesota Timberwolves. No, they didn't pull off a trade for Jimmy Butler (and good for the Bulls on resisting the less-than offers), but in getting Tom Thibodeau to coach and mold those young pieces could be considered a coup. And it's more about the maturity of the pieces than Thibs himself, as Karl-Anthony Towns is a top-25 player in his second season, Andrew Wiggins is getting closer to realizing his vast potential and Kris Dunn has Rookie of the Year written all over him.

Nobody's saying they'll make the postseason this time around, and the way things were done with Thibs at the helm of basketball operations doesn't leave the best of tastes, as it'll be an adjustment for a coach who craved having total control, actually getting total control.

The best part? The pieces are so young, there's no danger of the "Thibs miles" effect on Towns and Wiggins. What are "Thibs miles"? Think of city miles on your car, running over and hitting every pothole, every morning on the way to work and back home. Thibs miles don't affect young guys, right Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose?

Wait, can we start this over?