Friday’s night’s forgettable 83-77 loss to Dallas was overshadowed by a second serious shoulder injury to Joakim Noah. After missing just three weeks earlier this season, Noah will now need surgery on the injured shoulder and will be out for four to six months.
If Joakim cannot return in time for the playoffs–which seems very likely–there is a strong chance he has played his last game in a Bulls uniform. Noah will be an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, and the Bulls must decide how they will structure their frontcourt going forward. Pau Gasol will likely opt into free agency as well, leaving the younger trio of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis as the bigs under contract. The Bulls will surely have some interest in bringing the franchise favorite back, but he may be looking for more money than they are comfortable spending on the oft-injured and rapidly declining center.
If this is the end for Jo in Chicago, I’d like to thank him for everything he brought to this team, city, league, and sport. Noah has been a model teammate for years and never failed to invigorate an often frustrated fanbase. I sincerely hope the Bulls can find a way to bring him back.
Shall we discuss the stinker of a game from Friday? Jimmy Butler struggled mightily to match his historic 53 point output from the night before in Philadelphia. He scored just four points against Dallas as Wesley Matthews did a fantastic job badgering the exhausted All-Star. While Butler shot 2/11, he did add six assists and five rebounds. His improved playmaking has been instrumental this season.
Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol returned to the starting lineup after receiving a night off. Rose looked great, scoring 18 points on 8/18 shooting. His floor game looked as smooth as it has all season as he chipped in four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. The rest of the Bulls shot 33.8% from the field.
Gasol was solid as well, posting 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. As the only true center left for the Bulls, he’ll be seeing a lot of court time in Joakim Noah’s absence.
E’Twaun Moore was impactful off the bench for the second straight night, scoring eight points in 22 minutes. With Kirk Hinrich constantly hobbled and Aaron Brooks useless defensively, Moore might start seeing more time as Rose’s backup. Fred Hoiberg has also already experimented with playing the two together.
Dirk Nowitzki started off slowly in this one, but he delivered an MVP finish. With the Bulls hanging around to the end, Dirk drilled back-to-back daggers with defenders draped all over him. You had to appreciate it.