Noah Returns to Bulls Line-up
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Feb 23, 2011 4:40PM
The Bulls return from the All-Star break tonight when they head to Toronto to face the Raptors. For the first time since December, they'll have their entire projected starting five in action. That's right... after missing 31 games due to thumb ligament surgery, Joakim Noah returns to action.
Before going under the knife, Noah averaged 14 points and 11.7 rebounds a game for the Bulls. During Noah's absence, the Bulls recorded a 23-8 record. Of course, it helped that Carlos Boozer returned from his own injury shortly before Noah's layoff began.
But ten weeks without playing clearly got to Noah, "It has been a lot of waiting," Noah said. "I've tried to be as patient as possible. I'm really happy I can finally play. Conditioning will take a little while. But I promise I'll give it everything I have and see where it takes us."
His return could help the Bulls go very far. Presently sporting a 38-16 record, the Bulls are running away with the Central Division and sit just 2 1/2 games back of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat for best record in the Eastern Conference. They finished up the pre-All-Star break schedule with an impressive win over the league's top team, the San Antonio Spurs. With their now line-up in tact for the stretch run, can the Bulls even make a run for the top seed in the East? It doesn't really matter, so long as they use these last 28 games to jell as a starting unit and reestablish bench roles. During Noah's absence, we've seen just what Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik can do -- and it's more than most expected. Their extended minutes during the middle of the season will certainly be a benefit come April. But we should also see a more energetic and fast-paced offense with Noah back. Said Derrick Rose recently, "We're not a fast-break team right now because (38-year-old) Kurt (Thomas) is kind of old. But when Joakim comes back, he is going to speed the game up and give us a lot of energy out there."