February 24, 2010
Joakim Noah is struggling with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but he really, really wants to play. He’s wearing new orthotics, undergoing treatment, and even ingesting some mystrious “fruit drink” that’s supposed to help his feet. But the pain hasn’t gone away. In two games he’s missed two breakaway dunks. It’s not a coincidence.
Said Noah: “I want to play the whole game. I think [the coaches] know that. But what can I do? I’m not going to go to the media and say I’m not happy with the situation. They told me this was going to happen. I want to help. But I have to get healthy.”
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro also wants Noah to play, but Vinny is limiting Jo’s minutes to reduce the wear and tear on his aching foot. The medical staff doesn’t think shutting Noah down is the answer, but neither is asking him to log heavy minutes.
Said Del Negro : “We want him out there. It’s just that he’s not healthy. His foot is healing as fast as it can. It’s frustrating for him, I’m sure. But he’s just got to keep on getting his rest, getting his therapy and hopefully, it will continue to improve. … He’s had a lot of therapy and a lot of time, but those are difficult injuries. And everyone is a little bit different — where it is on your foot. We’ll just take it a day at a time. See how he feels. And increase his minutes as we see fit.”
Sadly, there’s no good answer with plantar fasciitis.
I’ll go ahead and admit I’ve been dealing with this injury for a couple months now. Some days it’s really bad, some days not so much. But as an avid pickup baller who plays two or three times a week, I can tell you it’s affected my game. Heck, it’s affected my walk from the train station to my job in the morning.
I was never much of a leaper, but now I have no lift. I also have no thrust on my first step. As a result, I’ve been struggling to get to the hoop, and I’ve had more shots stuffed in the last 30 days than the past couple years. It’s a bit of an ego-ectomy, really.
Like Noah, I want to play. But also like Noah, the problem persists.
It’s affecting my pickup teams, and it’s affecting the Bulls. And don’t forget that — with much less limelight — Taj Gibson is also playing through a case of plantar fasciitis, and Brad Miller is being asked to log too many minutes in relief. That double whammy could certainly explain why those two guys played so badly against the Wizards on Monday.
As K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has pointed out, this entire situation — Noah’s injury, Gibson’s injury, Miller’s minutes, and the defensive confusion of new Bull Hakim Warrick — is impacting Chicago’s defense. The Bulls lead the league in rebounding and blocked shots, and they’re tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder in lowest opponents’ field-goal percentage.
But barring a mystical fruit drink miracle, those numbers seem destined to fall. And Washington big man Andray Blatche’s 25-point, 11-rebound performance against the Bulls may become the rule rather than the exception. Hopefully, Warrick can get up to speed defensively. And fast.
Said Warrick: “It’s been a little tough for me. They’re a little more aggressive, especially on side pick-and-rolls and showing and blitzing. With the Bucks, we were sending (opponents) baseline. Coach Scott Skiles had a thing where he didn’t want to switch it up as much. They switch (screens) a little more here.”
These are the little things that haunted the Bulls in their loss to the Wizards, and it could make stealing a decent playoff seed pretty difficult. And unfortunately, Bulls fans can only do what Noah is doing: sit and wait and hope.
February 9, 2010
Deng expected to play tonight versus Pacers:
Somewhat lost amidst all the drama surrounding Tyrus Thomas was the fact that Luol Deng missed practice on Monday because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. However, he’s expected to play tonight against the Indiana Pacers. Deng missed 33 games last season thanks to a stress fracture in his right tibia, but he’s been an iron man this season, appearing in all 49 games despite playing with a fractured left thumb.
Remember what Deng said earlier this season: “Last year when I was sitting, I made a commitment to play all 82 games this season. Even though it wasn’t my fault last year, I didn’t want anyone to say anything about me being soft anymore. That’s why I don’t want to take any game off all year. I just want to do my job.”
The Bulls do not heart Indiana:
The Pacers (18-33) aren’t a very good team. In fact, they haven’t been a very good team since The Malice at the Place. Not that Indy’s descent into mediocrity and worse has benefitted the Bulls at all. Since it opened in 1999, Chicago is 3-17 at Conseco Fieldhouse…and the Pacers’ winning percentage in these games (.850) is its best over any East opponent at home during that stretch.
Last February, Derrick Rose had one of his worst-ever games as a Bull, scoring only 3 points on 1-for-9 shooting.
Joakim Noah starring in remake of “Das Boot”:
Okay, that’s a bad joke from my freshman year German class. At any rate, the Bulls medical staff is trying to speed up Joakim’s recovery from plantar fasciitis by having him wear a protective boot and undergo both massage and electric stimulation. He also had blood was taken from his arm and injected into the foot.
I swear that last part isn’t a witch doctor cure.
According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy — used in plastic surgery since the 1990s — has gotten more popular among athletes, getting a push when Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward credited the treatment with getting him on the field in time for last year’s Super Bowl, said Martin Leland, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical Center who is not working with the Bulls.”
Vinny tepid on Tyrus Thomas’ return:
Regarding “Tirade” Thomas’ return to Bulls practice, Vinny said: “What happened, happened. It’s over with. Hopefully, Tyrus learns from it and gets better. But, it’s not the first thing that’s happened with Tyrus. He’s got to be smarter and he’s got to be committed to the team. Today was a good practice — not for him, but for everybody and now we’ve got to move on.”
On how Tyrus can earn more playing time (emphasis mine): “Tyrus has got to run the court. Play hard. Execute the game plan. Hit open 15-foot jumpers. Be committed to the team. Same thing everyone else does. Everyone has a job on this team. Certain guys do different things better than others. Everyone knows their role, knows what they need to do and now they have to go out and do it. And the guys that go out on a consistent basis and are coachable and want to buy into the team and give us the best chance to win — those are the guys that are going to be out there. It’s a very simple process.”
Well, I guess VDN actually wants Ty chucking up jumpers…
Barkley high on Del Negro, low on Thomas:
Even though Vinny has apparently given Thomas a green light to shoot, Charles Barkley is still campaigning for Del Negro. Said Sir Charles: “If he gets the Bulls back to the playoffs, Vinny Del Negro should be NBA Coach of the Year. Derrick Rose was hurt. Tyrus Thomas was hurt a lot and crazy a lot. If he gets that team back to the playoffs after losing Ben Gordon, I think that’s a hell of a year.”
Regarding what to do with Thomas after his blowup at Vinny: ”What I would say to him? Uh, listen, say it just didn’t work out here. ‘You’ve been traded to, uh … (laughs).”
Bulls earn C+ last week:
From Pippin Ain’t Easy: “The win against Miami was big, but the 3 straight losses just helps to emphasize the Bulls inconsistencies coming off a 5-game road winning streak.”
Memo the the Bulls — Crash the boards:
According to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald, from December 11 through February 2, the Bulls beat their opponents on the boards in 21 of 26 games. Now — with Joakim Noah first limited and then sidelined by plantar fasciitis — they’ve lost the rebound battle in three straight games. Enter Chris Richard.
February 5, 2010
Bad news — very bad news — for the Bulls: Joakim Noah will not play again until some time after the All-Star break. The reason: To rest and receive treatment on the plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Said Bulls general manager Gar Forman: “We’re shutting him down. It’s the best course of action right now. He’s coming back to Chicago to get rest and treatment. We’ll reevaluate it after the All-Star break.”
In case you aren’t familiar with plantar fasciitis, Mayo Clinic describes it as pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, which runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. It feels like a sharp pain in the heel of the foot…which can be particularly troubling for a professional basketball player.
The good news is that about 90 percent of the people who have plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments. Unfortunately, it usually takes a few months of not running and jumping on a hardwood court. In other words, what Noah needs most of all is a break from his chosen occupation.
Based on what happened against the Clippers and 76ers — when Noah’s minutes and contributions were limited due to the pain in his foot — the Bulls can’t afford to lose Joakim for a single game let alone a few months.
Noah could have been an All-Star. In fact, he probably would have been if the Bulls had a better record. After all, the only true center on the Eastern Conference All-Star team is Dwight Howard. Atlanta’s Al Horford is listed as a forward/center, and his presence on the team is most likely a function of his team’s place among the East’s elite.
But make no mistake: Noah has been fantastic all season. His raw numbers are pretty impressive on their own: 11.2 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.7 BPG in only 32.7 minutes. But let’s take a look at how Noah ranks league-wide:
3rd in Rebounds Per Game (12.0)
4th in Total Rebound Percentage (20.1)
5th in Offensive Rebounds (176)
5th in Offensive Rebound Percentage (13.0)
5th in Total Rebounds (552)
7th in Defensive Rebounds (376)
7th in Defensive Rebound Percentage (27.1)
8th in Defensive Rating (99.6)
9th in Defensive Win Shares (2.9)
By the numbers, Noah is both a dominant rebounder and an elite defensive force. His frenetic activity around the basket is a big reason why the Bulls currently rank 2nd (to the Orlando Magic) in Opponents At-The-Rim Field Goal Percentage (55.8).
But Noah’s contributions go well beyond facts and figures. Derrick Rose is Chicago’s best player — there’s no question about that now — but Noah is the team’s emotional leader. Basketball isn’t a job to him, it’s something worth walking through brick walls and eating broken glass for. His skill set may be relatively limited, he may never average 20 points per game, but Noah loves to play and wants to win as badly as anyone in the NBA. Every team needs a Joakim Noah. Especially the team he’s already on.
The Bulls are in a tough spot. Remember, they recently traded Aaron Gray the the New Orleans Hornets, which means that Brad Miller is the only center they have left right now. And Miller is no spring chicken. He’s a late winter chicken at best. And he’s suffering all the aches and pains older players go through. It’s hard to imagine the Bulls succeeding if they have to play Big Brad 35+ minutes per game.
The fact that Taj Gibson is also suffering from plantar fasciitis means Vinny Del Negro is facing a real quandary. He’s going to have to go with smaller lineups and give more minutes to Tyrus Thomas. Can Vinny make that change on the fly? Can Thomas step it up for more than a game or two? The Bulls are going to have to answer these questions to avoid a mini-collapse before the All-Star break.