Noah's injury stems from a fall weeks ago in a game at the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls' statement said that Noah has also sprained two fingers on his right hand, but that instability in the thumb caused the most pain. After the diagnosis and decision for surgery, Noah actually played big minutes in Chicago's Wednesday night win over the Raptors, as doctors had determined playing through the injury, while painful, wouldn't cause additional damage.
But the team wants Noah in full health heading into the stretch run; having surgery now should give the team plenty of time to re-integrate the center back into the Bulls' campaign for a deep playoff run. It's unfortunate that the Bulls have only gotten to see the two highly-paid big men play together for such a short time. Carlos Boozer, Chicago's key offseason pick-up, broke his hand during preseason and didn't make his first regular season appearance until December 1.
The Bulls were 7-2 in the nine games with both Boozer and Noah available. Prior to Boozer's return, the Bulls had been 9-6. Noah missed 18 games last season due to nagging injuries, and the Bulls suffered when he was out: Chicago went 35-29 with Noah playing and 6-12 with Noah unavailable.
Taj Gibson and Omer Asik will see more prominent roles with Noah out. The Bulls signed Noah to a five-year, $60 million extension during the offseason; the extension doesn't kick in until next season, however. Boozer signed a five-year, $75 million contract as a free agent in July.
The Bulls have cleared Joakim Noah to play in tonight's game against the Raptors tonight despite worries about a nagging injury in his right hand. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the team has been considering taking more dramatic steps to deal with the problem.
The Tribune reported late Tuesday that management has talked about sitting Noah since his injury isn't healing. Surgery hasn't been ruled out but would be a last resort.
Part of the reason for those discussions might be that the injury is more serious than the team is letting on right. ESPNChicago is reporting that Noah might have ligament damage in the thumb and is expected to be re-evaluated Thursday. Surgery would sideline Noah, whose been averaging 14.2 points and 11.7 boards a game, for at least eight weeks.
Fortunately, with Carlos Boozer back and in midseason form, Noah's minutes could be limited if necessary, or he could even miss a couple of games -- including tonight, the Bulls have four straight games against teams with losing records, including the woeful Clippers (5-20) and the pathetic Wizards (6-17), both at home.