Joakim Noah's shoulder injured again. Goes right to the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/A6svS9fdaW— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 16, 2016
It's possible Joakim Noah has played his last game for the Chicago Bulls. The nine-year veteran center that became synonymous with so much of the team's culture is expected to miss 4-6 months after injuring his left shoulder in Chicago's game against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Noah was fighting for a rebound with Dallas' JaVale McGee when he immediately clutched his left shoulder. Bent over in pain, Noah sprinted to the opposite end of the court and straight into the Bulls' locker room. Noah previously injured the same shoulder in December, causing him to miss nine games. That reinjury is why Derrick Rose called the moment "devastating" after the game.
If Noah cannot return this season, this might be it for his long Bulls career. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Bulls have already begun to phase him out of a high-minute role with the team. Noah was the heartbeat of Tom Thibodeau's successful Bulls clubs and finished fourth in MVP voting during a magical 2013-14 season, but he has seen his offensive production nosedive since. Given Noah's long injury history and advancing age, it will be interesting to see how teams value him this summer.
Noah's absence will mean an increased role for rookie Bobby Portis off the bench, as well as more minutes for Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol. Chicago (22-16) ran off a six-game winning streak without Noah earlier this year but began sliding back even before Noah returned.