Joakim Noah will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, according to the team, knocking the Chicago Bulls' center out of action for 8-10 weeks, or roughly 27-32 games plus All-Star Weekend.
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.