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.