The news that no Bulls fan wanted to hear came out yesterday, and not only is Joakim Noah doubtful for game one, but it doesn’t sound good for the rest of the series either.
Noah admitted what many had feared: the games down the stretch that he tried to play in worsened the injury. “I’ve got a tear in my foot. I’ve got a tear in my foot, so it is what it is,” Noah said. “I’m upset at myself because I let this linger for a long time, and I have nobody to blame but myself. I just wish that I was a little bit smarter. I played games in the regular season that I probably shouldn’t have played. It’s going to be tough, but these are the cards I was dealt, and I’ll just do the best that I can to get back as quick as I can.”
That means the task of slowing down Brook Lopez, who had the fifth best PER in the league this season, falls on Nazr Mohammed. At least to start.
“It was a master plan,” Mohammed said with a laugh. “[Thibodeau] told me when I signed here they were going to save me all year and then unleash me at the end of the season. Nah, it’s one of those things; that’s how the season is.”
It’s unclear how much time Nazr will actually get filling in for Jo. Nazr played 37 minutes against the Nets when Chicago was without both Noah and Gibson. But when Carlos Boozer and Noah were out, he logged just eight minutes (in the two games Noah was healthy, he played three and four minutes). So he’ll will play somewhere between eight and 40 minutes…you’re welcome for narrowing that down. My guess would be somewhere in the middle, closer to 20. I expect a lot of Taj-Boozer tandem, as Taj can guard Lopez.
Noah’s injury also hurts the Bulls rebounding. Brooklyn has two very good offensive rebounders in Lopez and Reggie Evans. Evans’ was first in offensive rebounding percentage and total rebound percentage, while Lopez was just outside of the top 20 in offensive rebounding percentage. It’s going to take a full team effort for the Bulls to keep the Nets off the offensive glass. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are both solid rebounders, as is Boozer. Taj Gibson hopefully won’t be hindered with his knee injury very much, because he will need to be out there both to rebound and to slow Lopez’s scoring.
It’ll be a lot to overcome Noah’s absence, especially considering the improved play of Deron Williams. Brooklyn’s point guard averaged 24.6 points per contest in April on 52.4 percent shooting. Before the All-Star game, Williams shot just 41.3 percent and scored 16.7 points per contest.
After last season’s first round “upset” at the hands of Philadelphia when Noah and Derrick Rose wet down for the series, Bulls’ fans hoped next season would be different. Unfortunately Chicago is in a similar place, without there two best players, fighting an uphill battle. At least this year the Bulls had extensive experience playing sans Rose and Noah.