The Chicago Bulls just can’t seem to catch a break. Just days after getting Richard Hamilton back from injury, they lose Kirk Hinrich to a bruised knee and Joakim Noah to flu-like symptoms.
The flu is like the plague for NBA teams, if one player gets it, it will most likely strike the entire team and the Bulls are no different. After Noah started to feel symptoms, backup power forward Vladimir Radmanovic started to display symptoms as well. With these symptoms striking Noah it translates to two things; first, Taj Gibson will most likely see more minutes on the court along with Nazr Mohammed and second, that this game may paint a bigger picture for the Bulls regardless of the turnout. Let me explain.
This is the first game the Bulls are playing without Noah and with the heavy amounts of minutes he plays every night (about 40 minutes per game), it is clear to see why it may be one of the most important games. When Noah slowed down during play against the Charlotte Bobcats, he became a non-factor and the Bulls sputtered and thus lost the game. Now, they are without Noah completely and facing a much better team; the Orlando Magic. The Magic aren’t riding an 18-game losing streak into tonight’s game, the team is riding an eight-game losing streak. But despite what their record says they will give Chicago a tough time down low and the Bulls will miss Noah on the glass.
Noah’s absence points to a big problem with minutes. I have written about minutes per player before, but now that Noah is actually sitting, it gains merit. Luckily he is only gone for a game or two but what if it was more? When Hamilton went down Chicago had apt players to replace him, when Kirk Hinrich misses games they have a reliable backup.
But when Noah sits, there is no one on the team who can mirror or even replicate what he brings to the team. Noah is a work-horse, he plays night in and night out but it doesn’t matter, your body gets tired. Sometimes it gets so tired that it breaks down and leads to an injury. So I ask, what happens if Noah gets injured? The Bulls are playing the “cross your fingers,” game and that will not work. If he goes down for anything at all and is forced to miss more than a handful of games then simply put the Bulls are in trouble.
So what is the solution? Free agency or trades. Simple as that. Chicago can do everything in their power to prevent injury, but if it happens they need to be prepared with players that coach Tom Thibodeau trusts. Players like Radmanovic who never see any time on the floor are virtually useless to the team and costs them money and a roster spot. Chicago needs to apply the “prepare for the worst,” mentality if they want to ensure a solid season and stay in contention in the Eastern Conference from now until the Playoffs.