December 16, 2010
I’ve never felt so bummed after a team I’m rooting for just won in a blowout.
As many of you already know, Joakim Noah is scheduled to have surgery this morning. The procedure will repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, which means a lengthy vacation for Noah. In NBA terms.
And Chicago fans thought the beating the Bears received from the Patriots on Sunday was the worst thing that could happen to one of their teams this week.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Noah is scheduled to miss eight to 10 weeks, not returning until after the All-Star break in late February or early March. That would be at least 30 games for the heart and soul – and rebounding machine – of the franchise.”
Said Noah: ”It sucks. It’s not what I want. But I have to get back to playing at a high level. I’m tired of taking anti-inflammatory (pills) every time I play. I’m tired of not dribbling with my right hand.
“I’m going to miss playing. It’s frustrating because I feel we have a chance to be really, really good. But I know in the long run, this is what needs to be done.”
Now the Bulls have to figure out how to fill an unfillable gap.
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: ”It’s disappointing for Joe but we’re confident in the abilities of the guys that we have. We’ve got more than enough to win with. Taj [Gibson] has played extremely well, Kurt Thomas has played well for us, Luol [Deng] has played well for us, so we have a number of players who can step up.”
I wouldn’t expect any less than total defiance from a fiery guy like Thibs. But still…the loss is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt a lot. As Johnson said, Noah truly is the heart and soul of this team.
But the surgery is an absolute necessity.
Despite the fact that he’s averaging career highs in points (14.0), rebounds (11.7), assists (2.7), steals (1.2) and blocked shots (1.6), astute Bulls fans noticed something was wrong. People were asking if Noah was okay and noting that something didn’t look quite right.
Jo had scored in double figures in every one of Chicago’s first 18 games while shooting well over 50 percent from the field in most of them. Then he scored in single digits in three out of four games while suffering through some uncharacteristically poor shooting.
Noah scored 6 points on 3-for-8 shooting against the Thunder. Then he had 9 points on 3-for-10 shooting against the Lakers and then 9 points on 3-for-8 against the Timberwolves. He was getting shots swatted and struggling to finish around the basket. He kept driving in for layups and putting them up left-handed. Which he can do. But still…it felt a little forced at time.
It seemed maybe he was just adjusting to sharing frontcourt scoring duties with Carlos Boozer. Now we know what was really going on.
Not the way the Bulls wanted to celebrate their longest winning streak since 2006.
On that subject, Chicago crushed the Raptors. And they did it in Toronto. That’s the hallmark of a really good team, right? Going into another team’s building and busting them. They say blowing out bad teams is a meaningful indicator of postseason success. Well, in you count Saturday’s win over the Timberwolves, the Bulls now have back-to-back lopsided wins against probable lottery teams.
And, seriously, if Carlos Boozer faced the Raptors frontcourt on a nightly basis, he might challenge Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time single-season scoring average of 50.4 PPG. Toronto’s interior defense was softer than the inside of a chocolate marshmallow Santa. In only 26 minutes of action, Boozington scored a game-high 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting. He also went 8-for-11 from the line and grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds.
Carlos scored 12 points in the second quarter to help the Bulls establish a 63-44 halftime lead. He then put up another 14 points in the third as the lead ballooned to 91-64.
Derrick Rose — who was playing through a sprained right wrist and a bruised right elbow — was all for it: ”Before the game I told [Boozer] to get 40. I knew it was one of those nights where my arm wasn’t right. I knew my passing was going to have to win the game. They have some small bigs and he’s big. He’s a bully out there. That’s what he did tonight.”
And pass Rose did. He scored only 6 points on 3-for-9 shooting. But he had a game-high 11 assists and set a tempo that helped the Bulls score 110 points on 53 percent shooting. Chicago finished with 23 fast break points and a whopping 62 points in the paint.
Of course, the Raptors defense — as in the complete and utter lack of it — helped. Boozer got whatever he wanted inside. Bulls players were swooping in for uncontested layups. During the first half, the Toronto crowd booed their team after Rose fed Boozer for yet another driving layup in transition. I couldn’t blame them.
Now the Bulls have a few days for the licking of wounds. They play only three games in the next seven days and won’t suit up again until they play the Clippers at home on Saturday. After that, they have a home game against the Sixers and a road game versus the Wizards before a Christmas day showdown with the Knicks.
The thought of facing Amar’e Stoudemire without Noah is terrifying.
That’s a worry for another day. Even though Joakim is indispensable, the Bulls rank 3rd in the NBA in Defensive Rating. Thibodeau will write up some schemes. Omer Asik’s NBA education is going to be accelerated. Kurt Thomas will bang people and commit fouls. The Bulls will get through this. And Noah will return in time for the playoffs.
Still…this team was starting to become something pretty special. Now we won’t be able to figure out its true potential for months. Maybe longer. Maybe not at all.
Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
December 15, 2010
According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell:
“Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is expected to play Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors despite ongoing issues with his right hand. The Bulls are concerned there may be ligament damage in his right thumb, according to sources familiar with the situation. Bulls general manager Gar Forman told ESPNChicago.com before Wednesday morning’s shootaround that the Bulls are still evaluating the situation and Noah will be re-examined once he returns to Chicago on Thursday.”
And here’s the real kick in the you-know-what:
“If an examination reveals the need for surgery, he would most likely be out a minimum of eight weeks.”
I don’t need to tell you how important Noah is to the Bulls. He leads the team in Offensive and Defensive Rating (discounting Kurt Thomas and James Johnson because they’re so rarely used) and ranks second in Player Efficiency Rating and Win Sharers. And, obviously, he’s one of the league’s best rebounders.
Derrick Rose is the only player on this team more indispensible than Noah. Of course, Derrick is hurting too. And while Derrick is the focus of Chicago’s offense, Noah is the foundation of the defense.
Well, all we can do is wait. And I guess somebody better start oiling up Kurt Thomas’ joints.
December 14, 2010
This was one of those classic “the final score doesn’t tell the whole story” games.
Danny Granger — Indiana’s best player — didn’t play because of a sprained ankle.
The Bulls started out on fire, building a 25-8 lead in the first quarter. At that point, it looked like the Pacers were going to get blown right out of the United Center.
With 4:16 left in the first and the Bulls still up 17 points, Derrick Rose fouled Dahntay Jones. It was Rose’s second personal. He headed to the bench…and momentum shifted.
Minus Rose, Chicago’s offense lulled and Indiana’s defensive intensity picked up. The Pacers closed the quarter on a 10-2 run. By the time Derrick re-entered the game less than a minute into the second quarter, Indy’s D had given them the advantage.
Things got physical. Their was a lot of uncalled contact around the basket. So much so that the usually mild-mannered Rose picked up a technical foul for arguing a no-call. Considering his history of calm, I had figured I’d see a nun flip somebody off before I saw Rose start beefing with the officials.
It’s probably necessary. No matter what some people say — that Rose doesn’t draw contact on his many drives to the basket — Derrick gets hit. Often. It’s just that, unlike most NBA players, he doesn’t flail or flop or scream when it happens. That fact, more so than his ability to absorb the blows and finish anyway, is what has prevented him from making more trips to the line.
At any rate, when the game got rough, the Pacers started taking over. The nabbed the lead. They were grabbing all the rebounds and making all the hustle plays. Josh McRoberts ran past and jumped over everybody for two put-back slams within a minute of each other. Indy was just outworking the Bulls.
Thanks to a quick end-of-the-half flurry by Rose — a driving layup and one, an assist on a three-pointer by Kyle Korver and a three of his own off a dish from Carlos Boozer — Chicago went to halftime with a 43-41 lead.
I have to give the Pacers credit. During the third quarter, the Bulls kept flirting with a double-digit lead, but they couldn’t push their advantage past nine points. The Indy players really did give it all they had. They clogged the middle and forced the Bulls into a lot of contested two-pointers. They harassed D-Rose into a bad shooting night (6-for-18). And they kept Joakim Noah off the boards, limiting him to five rebounds on the night.
Fortunately for Chicago, Carlos Boozer picked up the slack with 22 points (10-for-21) and 18 rebounds. Again, this is why management brought in Boozer. So that Rose and Noah don’t have to kill themselves every single night.
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell said: “Boozer’s ability to score down low helped push the Bulls out of their funk. His energy off the glass during the second half helped get the team on track. He is slowly becoming the security blanket down low that the Bulls had hoped he would be.”
All hail Boozington!
Mind you, despite having a “bad” game, Derrick still finished with 17 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. He also went 3-for-6 from downtown. Rose is entering that superstar zone where even his subpar games are pretty darn good.
Anyway, in the fourth quarter, Chicago’s offense got back on track while Indiana’s offense — thanks, of course, to the Bulls’ defense — became all three-pointers and long jumpers. After T.J. Ford hit a 20-footer to pull the Pacers to within four points (73-69) with 6:30 remaining, the Bulls ripped off a 19-4 run to close out the game.
Unfortunately, with 1:56 left, Rose was fouled while in mid-air and fell. I mean, he fell hard. Hard enough that whoever was managing the United Center almost needed to call in a fleet of ambulances. Seriously, 21,287 hearts stopped dead for a few seconds.
The way he reacted to the fall, it looked like Rose sprained an ankle. But actually, he sprained his right wrist. The good news: X-rays were negative.
Said Rose: ”I saw my whole future flash before my eyes, coming down. I thought it was going to be worse than that. But right now it just feels sore. That’s basketball. Some of the times, the games are going to be physical. And you got to be able to play through them.”
Of course, he also had this to say about the foul that sent him to the hardwood: “[Brandon Rush] slid in my way. If anything, next time I’ll be careful and learn from my mistakes. Especially with that team.”
Rose seems a little perturbed, doesn’t he?
Added Bulls athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi: “All the bones are in the right place. So from that point, we know that it’s not too severe from the sprain standpoint, so we’ll just kind of keep our fingers crossed and hope it stays that way.”
As for the Bulls, their defense is really picking up. These are the point totals they’ve held their opponents to in the last five games: 90, 83, 84, 82, 73. In the last three games, they’ve held their foes to a season low in points.
Said Indiana’s Mike Dunleavy: “They’re a really good defensive team. [They're] well coached. We already knew that coming in. But we didn’t help the situation by missing a lot of open 3′s in the second half.”
The Bulls have now won six in a row. It’s the first time they’ve won that many consecutive games since November 25 through December 8 in 2006.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
November 22, 2010
Last season, it was plantar fasciitis in both feet.
This season, Taj Gibson apparently has a pinched nerve in his right foot.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Taj Gibson didn’t practice Sunday after suffering what he called a pinched nerve in his right foot. Gibson suffered the injury during slide drills at the start of practice and limped out of Staples Center.”
Insert “agony of the feet” joke here.
Said Gibson: “It’s real sore. I don’t know if I’ll be able to play Tuesday (against the Lakers), but at least we have two more days to let it heal.”
This is lousy news, and not only because Taj is coming off what may have been his best game as a pro — 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds plus his first ever three-pointer in a Bulls win over the Mavericks in Dallas.
The Lakers’ frontcourt — do the names Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol ring any bells? — is huge. If Gibson is out, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may have to start Joakim Noah at power forward and Omer Asik at center.
And, gulp, maybe even go to Brian Scalabrine early and often.
This isn’t exactly encouraging news for a team that’s heading off to face the defending champs in their building.
Anybody know any foot healing voodoo magic?
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, it appears we can expect Boozer to “return to game action” by early- to mid-December. In theory. If the Bulls are lucky.
Of course, it’s November 22 already and Boozer hasn’t even been participating in full-contact practices (although he has been doing some non-contact work). As of Friday, Boozer said he hopes to begin practicing “in a week or a week and a half.”
Said Boozer: “I know my body. I’m getting the doctors’ advice and they want me to wait to the eight-week mark to have full contact in practice. But I’m starting to get a little anxious. I do a bunch of strengthening drills with some clay and then I do a couple of different exercises to get the muscles in between the fingers and the hand stronger. The strength isn’t there yet. I ice it down, of course, so it doesn’t flare up on me. And then I do dribbling, passing and shooting just around the rim in the paint area. I ice it down again and let it keep healing.”
That said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Boozer admitted his busted hand isn’t fully healed — “It’s still sore, it’s not 100 percent, it’s not ready yet.” — and there’s no way to tell exactly when he’ll be ready to suit up and go.
When Boozer finally plays, according to the Sun-Times, ”he’ll be wearing a protective guard on his right hand. The device — similar to a weightlifter’s glove with padding on the back of the hand — is being designed, and he hopes to receive it when the Bulls are in Los Angeles the next few days.”
Huh. Not sure how I feel about Boozer shooting with a glove on. Actually, I am sure how I feel, and I don’t like it. In the interest of science, I put on a weightlifting glove on my right hand and tried dribbling and shooting. It was awkward at best. Of course, my glove wasn’t specially designed for basketball, so my experience might not mean much of anything. Still. it’s not optimal, and it’s almost certain to effect his shooting in the early going.
November 16, 2010
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweeted: “Korver has a simple bone bruise in right knee and participated in portions of Tuesday’s shootaround. Is gametime decision vs. Rockets.”
And relief washes over me in an awesome wave.
November 10, 2010
According to ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell: “Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose revealed after practice Tuesday that he has been dealing with turf toe in his left big toe since last season. Rose believes the injury happened some time during last season’s playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
Derrick isn’t expected to miss any time. Thankfully.
Said Rose: “I don’t even know how you get turf toe. I just know that my big toe hurts, and [the Bulls medical staff] said it was turf toe. … You can’t bend your toe at all. I thought it was jammed, but talking to the trainers, it was turf toe. … It’s there forever now. My left big toe, it’s there forever now so that’s going to be an injury I’m going to have for a long time.”
Eh, it shouldn’t last forever. Assuming Rose receives treatment.
According to WebMD: “Turf toe is a sprain to the ligaments around the big toe joint, which works primarily as a hinge to permit up and down motion. Just behind the big toe joint in the ball of your foot are two pea-shaped bones embedded in the tendon that moves your big toe. Called sesamoids, these bones work like a pulley for the tendon and provide leverage when you walk or run. They also absorb the weight that presses on the ball of the foot.”
Additionally, eMedicine lists the following possible complications: “Joint stiffness or persistent pain, especially with running, is the most common complication. Loss of push-off strength, hallux rigidus, traumatic bunion deformity, cock-up deformity, arthrofibrosis, and loose joint bodies also may occur.”
Obviously, the “loss of push-off strength” concerns me the most, since that’s a key element of Derrick’s game.
According to both eMedicine and WebMD, turf toe is usually treated with rest and rehab (icing, foot elevation, anti-inflammatory medicine and range-of-motion exercises). Rose won’t be getting much rest, but I assume his rehab will be consistent and extensive. Furthermore, athletes usually need to tape the toe and use customized footwear. In a worst-case scenario, surgery may be required.
And permenant damage — increased pain, limping, etc. — can result from improper treatment.
Honestly, I’m not sure how concerned to be about this injury. I had turf toe a year or so back. I took a month off, rehabbed and I’ve been symptom free ever since. Rose isn’t going to get a month off until next summer, which means his symptoms are likely to persist all season. How seriously will that affect his game?
I guess we’re going to find out.
October 4, 2010
Let the chorus of “I told you so’s” begin: Carlos Boozer is on the shelf for approximately eight weeks due to a fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his right hand. It will require surgery to repair and rebab to make right.
Booz hasn’t even played a preseason game yet.
The injury didn’t happen during some grueling practice session either. He wasn’t viciously dunking over a vision of Chris Bosh or anything. No, Boozer earned himself an entry in the Basketbawful Dumb Injury Hall of Shame with this one. As reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
“I was at my house, came around a corner, fell over a bag, put my arm down to try to brace myself and fractured my fifth metacarpal into three pieces. I’ll get surgery on Tuesday, do my rehab and conditioning, be around the guys.”
He tripped over…a bag?
“It was just dark. My doorbell had rang and I tripped over a bag, tried to brace myself and it popped. I jumped back up, opened the door and my hand was still a little bit numb.”
No, really. A bag?
“It was a big bag I had first thing over here at the hotel for training camp. I went back to my place, hadn’t unpacked the bag yet, came around the corner, running to get the door and fell over it. I’m 265, 5 percent body fat. I’m heavy, man. I guess I had to brace myself and my weight just collapsed the bone right there.”
“At least it happened right now and not later in the season.”
As Johnson pointed out, an eight-week absence means Boozer won’t return until after the Bulls’ annual Circus Trip in November…which concludes with a brutal seven-game Western Conference road trip that features two sets of back-to-backs and consecutive games against the Rockets, Spurs, Mavericks, Lakers, Suns and Nuggets.
The point: Boozer may miss “only” 15 games, but they will likely be the hardest 15 games of the season. Nine playoff teams and an extended road trip against strong competition. This feels like an entry out of the Worst Case Scenario Handbook for Injuries to Carlos Boozer.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this. About the only worse time for Boozer to get injured would be right before or during the playoffs. Boozer represented an answer to Chicago’s biggest problems. The Bulls needed an inside presence and another consistent scorer to relieve the burden on Derrick Rose. Management dropped a lot of money to make that problem go away.
And here it is again.
There’s another possible (and rather dark) downside to this injury. As Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie noted: “The long term diagnosis could be much nastier. Boozer is right handed, and while he’s also known for being one of the best left-handed finishers in basketball, his remarkable mid-range shooting prowess is done exclusively right-handed.”
Oy. The thought makes my head hurt.
However, “Doctor” Boozer seems more optimistic: “I’ll be back stronger than ever and my hand will be just fine. Right when it heals up, they’ll slide pins out and move forward.”
All we can do is wait and see.
In the interim, the Bulls are going to require some major production from Taj Gibson at the power forward position. During his rookie season, Gibson nearly averaged a double-double (9.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG) in limited minutes (26.9 MPG). He’s a smart kid who gives consistent effort, finishes reasonably well around the basket, and can stick the midrange jumper (although he knocked down only 37 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet). He’s also a very good defender.
Unfortunately, as good as Gibson is, and as good as I think he can be someday, he’s no Boozer. He simpy doesn’t have the same presence in the post. But at the moment, Gibson seems undaunted: “I don’t have to try to play like Carlos. I’ll play my game and help the team any way I can.”
In addition to liberal helpings of Gibson, coach Tom Thibodeau may play Joakim Noah at power forward while using either Omer Asik or Kurt Thomas at center in big lineups. He might also Luol Deng at power forward in smaller lineups. So there are options.
Of course, these aren’t options that many Bulls fans are likely to be thrilled about. I would say most people have fully absorbed the disappointment of no landing one of this summer’s “White Whales” and instead watching LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh form a team of Super Friends in Miami. Boozer was the spoonful of sugar that helped that medicine go down.
Without him, the 2010-11 Bulls have a distinct 2009-10 feel. That may not seem quite fair. After all, management acquired other complimentary players too (Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson). But Boozer was the centerpiece of the New Bulls, no less than second (to Rose) or third (to Rose and Noah) in importance.
I don’t know if we’re in store for 15-ish games of contested, long-distance, two-point jump shots…but it sure feels that way. And that could cost the Bulls homecourt advantage in the 2011 playoffs. I don’t mean to forecast so far ahead, but it’s a possibility that Bulls fans should probably accept now.
In the meantime, this does nothing to dispel the many “Boozer is injury prone” theories. I mean, anybody can have an accident at home. However, as Dwyer pointed out, “if the 15-games estimate is correct, this will mean a whopping 153 games missed to injury over the last seven seasons, and counting.” So if an accident was going to happen, you’d naturally assume it would happen to Boozer, right?
What’s the deal, Carlos? Are you cursed?
“I don’t feel like I’m cursed, just bad luck. I’ll get a new bag though. And I’ll have someone else answer the door.”
April 27, 2010
Amid speculation that coach Vinny Del Negro could be standing in an unemployment line as early as tomorrow — said Joakim Noah: “How about we just focus on the game tomorrow and see what happens. When the season’s over, you’ll figure it out.” — the Bulls are hobbling into what may be their final game of the 2009-10 season.
Derrick Rose, who hurt his left ankle stepping on Shaq’s foot in Game 4, had an MRI yesterday. Bulls fans can take a huge sigh of relief, because there were no significant findings. Nothing’s certain yet, but my guess is that Rose will play in Game 5. Ditto for Luol Deng, who’s feeling pain in his calf and knee.
It’s been that kind of season.
Said Del Negro: “Obviously, we need both those guys to play at a high level. I think they’ll both be fine and ready to play. But who’s 100 percent at this time of the year? Not many guys.”
Well, LeBron James is about 174 percent. But other than that…
April 19, 2010
More bad injury news for the Bulls: Luol Deng — Chicago’s primary LeBron James defender – is hurting. Again. Or still. Or whatever.
Said Deng: “I don’t feel good at all. The calf strain took a lot out of me. And it’s still bothering me. I missed 12 games, but I wanted to get back into it because I know I’m needed for the playoffs. You want to be 100 percent, but at this time of the season, you’re not going to be. My name is on the roster. I’m out there and playing. So I have to do what I have to do.”
Coach Vinny Del Negro says Deng’s knee is the current problem.
Said Del Negro: “His calf has been pretty good, but now his knee is bothering him. Lu has had a tremendous year, statistically as good as he’s had his whole career. We’re going to need him to play well, especially at the defensive end.”
So the guy taked with guarding the best player on the planet doesn’t feel good “at all” and is suffering from a lingering calf injury and/or a bum knee. Well, that’s just dandy.