Joakim Noah had minor, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in early May that was supposed to keep him sidelined for 8-12 weeks. Nearly six months later and with the 2014-2015 season just days away, the Chicago Bulls center says he still has a “ways to go” to reach full recovery.
This somewhat troubling bit of news is courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley. While Noah maintains that he doesn’t feel pain in his knee, a source close to the reigning Defensive Player of the Year still insists that the knee could bother him all season long.
Joakim Noah conceded on Wednesday that, “I still have a ways to go,” regarding the rehabilitation on his surgically repaired left knee.
Following the Bulls’ afternoon practice, Noah was asked if his knee felt different this season, and after a brief stare, replied, “Yeah, I had surgery…’’
According to Noah, he did have some concerns entering camp, but he insisted there has been no pain and no setbacks, so that was all good news for him.
“[No pain] at all,’’ Noah said. “In the beginning I was a little bit more uncomfortable, I was a little limited. I still have to get my strength back, I have to get the strength back in my leg. Just trying to manage practicing, playing. But overall I’m happy with where it’s at.’’
Rehabilitation is never the end of recovery after surgery, especially at a point of pressure like the knee. Atrophy is inevitable for professional athletes after procedures, and building up strength of the effected area to its pre-injury height is a long, arduous process. General comfort is part of it, too.
That’s what Noah is getting at here. Even though he feels no pain, he’s obviously somewhat limited by lingering fallout from surgery. It’s hardly uncommon, but that Noah is a member of the Bulls could make his discomfort more negatively impactful than if he played for another team. Tom Thibodeau isn’t exactly known for Gregg Popovich-style minutes restrictions.
Thankfully, both player and coach say they will do whatever necessary to help Noah feel like himself. According to Thibodeau, that could indeed include monitoring his playing time in the season’s early going.
“We’ll just see how it goes,’’ Thibodeau said of raising the minutes bar on his stars. “We’ve got some guys where it’s a situation where they need to work, they need to play. But they also need to do what they can handle. It all plays into it.
“[Noah’ is] a work in progress. He’s starting to feel better. You can see his timing is coming around. That was his first back-to-back [Monday and Tuesday night]. That was good. He has to work at it…’’
“There’s a plan,’’ Noah said. “We just take it day by day and see how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.’’
Thibodeau doesn’t seem ideally cautious, of course, but it’s fair to say that he’ll be more comfortable sitting Noah due to the presence of Pau Gasol. If any team is equipped to handle a relatively reduced minutes-load from a player of Noah’s caliber, it’s certainly Chicago. Gasol is a more versatile offensive threat than the All-NBA honoree, and Taj Gibson is nearly his defensive equal. The Bulls would be better with Noah no holds-barred, obviously, but could certainly manage while he adjusts to knee irritation.
Thibodeau surely understands the likelihood. The question now is if he’s willing to let it play out while diminishing the risk of rushing Noah back to full-go too soon. There seems like an easy to answer us, but that doesn’t mean Thibs will exercise it.
Would you limit Noah’s minutes as he gets more comfortable?
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