Joakim Noah is having one of his best seasons as a professional basketball player. Some would say it’s his best season, although his Per 36 Minute numbers and various advanced metrics seem to indicate he was better last season.
At any rate, Noah has been playing at an extremely high level and was justly rewarded by being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.
At the time, Noah said: “I’m extremely excited to be recognized as an All-Star for the first time. It’s more of a team honor than an individual honor, because it would not have been possible without my teammates and coaches. I look forward to representing my teammates and the Bulls organization during All-Star Weekend.”
That was then. This is now.
Noah has been struggling with plantar faciitis in his right foot. For those of you who may have forgotten, Noah developed the same condition in his left foot during the 2009-10 season, eventually missing 18 games. If you check the stats, Noah was putting up similar numbers in fewer minutes and shooting better that season. And his Player Efficiency Rating was higher then (18.8) than it is now (17.2).
This is what Noah said back in 2010: “Every morning when I wake up and don’t feel that pain, it’s a bright spot. You wake up in the morning and are always scared that you’re going to get that horrible feeling where you feel like you can hardly walk, knowing that you have a game that same day, going to push against those big bodies. [Plantar fasciitis] is no joke, especially because running is a big part of my game. When I don’t have that, it’s tough.”
How tough? Well, check out Noah’s splits from 2009-10. In January, he averaged 13.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 blocked shots over 14 games. Then the plantar faciitis flared up. In February, Noah played only six games, averaging 5.7 points, 5.2 rebounds. He had only one blocked shot. He also played only six games in March, averaging 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds.
My point is, the injury derailed an All-Star-caliber season three years ago. And it may do it again.
After Friday night’s loss in Denver, Noah admitted the injury is still a problem.
Said Noah: “There’s really not that much you can do right now. I just want to keep getting all the treatments, and I want to be out there on the court for my teammates.”
Noah doesn’t want to miss time, which is admirable. But at what cost? We know the Bulls will almost certainly make the playoffs. But we also know that without Derrick Rose at 100 percent — and it is unlikely he’ll be back at 100 percent this season even if he does return — the Bulls probably can’t expect to make a title run this season.
So why push it?
Because that’s sort of how Noah and these Bulls roll.
Still, given the seriousness of the injury and Noah’s history, sitting him for a while would probably be the most prudent course of action. And he really shouldn’t risk further injury at the All-Star Game, even though he really wants to play.
Said Noah: “To me, [the All-Star Game is] pretty important. I mean, it’s not that important, but it’s something I want to do. I also have to do what’s right for the team. There’s obviously a bigger picture than the All-Star Game. We’ll see.”
As usual, time will tell.