Joakim Noah out for Game 1 after foot injury flares up
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org April 19, 2013 11:15PM
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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:24AM
There was some excitement in coach Tom Thibodeau’s voice after the season finale Wednesday. He was almost breathing a sigh of relief because he had a relatively healthy team for the first time since the first half of the season.
That didn’t last long.
Thibodeau announced Friday that All-Star center Joakim Noah had yet another setback with the right plantar fasciitis and was not only out for Game 1 Saturday of the first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, but his entire postseason was in question.
“It’s been a concern since the All-Star break,’’ Thibodeau said of the injury that cost Noah 15 regular-season games. “That part is something where it’s a tricky issue. He has to try to manage it as best he can. He’s doing all he can. He wants to be out there very badly. But we don’t want him out there if he’s injured.’’
Thibodeau called Noah day-to-day, but Nazr Mohammed was penciled in as the starter for Game 1.
“It’s really hard,’’ Noah said. “All the work you put in is to play in this situation. This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my career. Going back home [to New York] and playing in these playoff games means the world to me.
“I mean I’ve got a tear in my foot. I’m upset at myself because I let this linger for a long time, and I have no one to blame but myself. I just wish I was a little bit smarter. I played games in the regular season that I probably shouldn’t have played, and it’s going to be tough, but these are the cards I was dealt.’’
Noah didn’t offer details about “games in the regular season that I probably shouldn’t have played,’’ but it was obvious he wouldn’t have tried to come back several times and would’ve rested the foot longer.
The injury flared up in February and cost him a few games, but the pain got so bad that he finally had to concede after a March 21 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers and was shut down until April 7. He came back in Detroit and played 21 minutes, but the pain was back the next day, and it cost him four more games.
Noah played in Orlando and in the finale against the Washington Wizards, but he didn’t come close to his All-Star form.
In the 16 games Noah missed — he was out with the flu for one game — the Bulls went 9-7, and that includes a victory in Brooklyn two weeks ago. But Nets center Brook Lopez went off for 28 points that game with Noah and Taj Gibson out of the lineup.
Mohammed slowed Lopez down in the second half and will have a healthy Gibson to help. But without Noah, the Bulls lose 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as well as a high-post passing game that Carlos Boozer has fed off of all season.
In the two games in which Lopez and Noah squared off this season, Lopez averaged 20 points but was a no-show on the boards. Noah, meanwhile, averaged 16.5 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds in each game.
“It’s tough, but it’s not about one player,’’ Noah said. “I’m really proud of this team. I think we put ourselves in a pretty good situation, and I think we’re a very capable group, regardless. But I definitely want to be there and help as much as I can.’’