Amid so many teams resting key players down the stretch of the 2014-2015 regular season, there still exists a group of NBA old-schoolers when it comes to playing limitations. It’s safe to count Joakim Noah among it, which makes the Chicago Bulls big man more frustrated than most while performing under a minutes restriction.
The limit was placed on a banged-up Noah before the season by the Chicago front office, but coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t always adhered to it. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year played over 32 minutes in nine of his first 17 games after returning from minor injury in mid-January, but hasn’t exceeded that mark since the Bulls’ win over the Washington Wizards on March 3.
Noah’s restriction hadn’t received much attention either way, though, until he sat out the final minutes of his team’s Sunday loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After the game, Thibodeau said he simply “ran out of minutes” for the Bulls’ defensive anchor with the outcome in the balance.
Though player nor coach has received any indication from management that the limitation will be lifted during the playoffs, Noah is optimistic that will prove the case. For now, however, the 28 year-old remains peeved by the edict.
Here’s Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago:
“It’s frustrating,” Noah said, his first public comments since before Friday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. “But I think I’m not the only one who’s frustrated sometimes. I think it’s part of the grind. But I’m just trying to stay focused on what’s important: trying to win basketball games. I’m not trying to get caught up in any noise or anything like that. I don’t want to be a distraction. We’ll figure it out internally and do what’s best for the team.”
After Sunday’s loss, Thibodeau said he has received no indication from management that Noah’s minutes restriction would be lifted before the postseason. Noah is hopeful that when the postseason begins, he would be able to play more.
“I think as coaches, and as an organization, all together, I think we can talk and figure it out,” he said. “I think that’s fair.”
Noah has looked increasingly spry over the past few weeks following a dispiriting start to the year. If Chicago is to make good on preseason championship aspirations, it needs to regain a sense of the defensive dominance that’s become a hallmark of Thibodeau teams over the past several seasons.
The surest way achieving it, of course, is Noah becoming the all-encompassing force he was in 2013-2014. If that means a minutes restriction during the season’s last month, that’s an inconsequential concern for the Bulls. And even if it extends to the postseason, a dominant Noah for 32 minutes is more valuable than a somewhat limited Noah for six more.
It seems simple, but Noah and Thibodeau don’t exactly have the rosiest relationships with Chicago management – that incendiary situation always looms. For sake of the Bulls’ current title hopes, all parties involved need to try and forget it while agreeing finding a plan to best manage Noah’s health and effectiveness.