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Bulls: Joakim Noah out at least two weeks after MRI on shoulder

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Bulls: Joakim Noah out at least two weeks after MRI on shoulder

It’s not as bad as it could be, but the near future is still a bit uncertain for Joakim Noah, as he’ll be out for the next two weeks with a sprained shoulder after his MRI Tuesday morning.

Noah reached in to defend an Andrea Bargnani shot in the third quarter of Monday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets and the shoulder “popped out."

“It’s a sprained shoulder. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s obviously very sore today. It popped out of joint for a brief second. He’ll be sore and stiff. So it’s rehabbing for a couple weeks then re-evaluating from there.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls drop third straight in lethargic loss to hapless Nets]

Noah seemed to be in good spirits from afar, laughing and joking with teammates at the end of practice. But it’s certainly a blow of considerable proportions, to which Derrick Rose called the specter of losing Noah for a length of time “devastating.”

“It’s always huge when you lose a player like Jo, just the energy he brings,” Rose said after the game. “It’s devastating. Even though people talk about his (lack of) scoring, his presence on the floor means a lot to this team.”

The time frame could be wide-ranging, because the two-week period doesn’t guarantee Noah will be back around that time.

Noah is in the last year of his contract with the Bulls and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He scored a season-high 21 in Saturday night’s loss to the Knicks and is averaging 4.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 22.3 minutes off the bench.

[ROAD AHEAD: Major concerns for the Bulls]

“The initial diagnosis, the shoulder sprain and the initial recovery is two weeks or rehab, then he'll be reevaluated. That's what I've been told,” Hoiberg said. “Maybe two, maybe four. I just don't know yet.”

The Bulls will have to make more modifications to the rotation, even after inserting Nikola Mirotic as a starter in order to clear the deck for Bobby Portis to get some playing time.

Now without a backup center, Mirotic could wind up back on the bench for Tony Snell, who didn’t play at all Monday night.

“Sure, those are the decisions and those are the things we’ll talk about the next few days, and again, we’ll experiment with them some at practice, and then make that determination,” Hoiberg said.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Noah, Rose and Pau Gasol declined to talk to media after Tuesday’s practice, as the storm clouds around the team continue to form.

“He’s an important player, brings a lot of energy to what we do,” said Gasol Monday night. “If he misses games it’ll be harder. When a guy goes down there’s an opportunity for another guy to step up and do what he can to help us win.”

It's time for the Bulls to spin the point guard roulette wheel

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USA TODAY

It's time for the Bulls to spin the point guard roulette wheel

Over the last couple seasons we've had some fun on our Bulls Pregame Live shows with the ever-changing cast of characters at the point guard position. We even brought the point guard roulette wheel to the show a couple years ago when Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Canaan, Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne all saw significant time at the position.

Grant began last season as the starter, followed by Kris Dunn and Payne with a little Ryan Arcidiacono mixed in.

But this season was supposed to be different. Dunn showed enough in his 52 game stint (13.4 points, 6 assists per game) in 2017-18 that he entered training camp as the unquestioned starter, with Payne and Arcidiacono as backups. The front office and coaching staff expected the 3rd year guard out of Providence to establish himself as a quality starter with elite skills at the defensive end.

Now, after playing just one regular season game, Dunn has been sidelined again, this time with a sprained left MCL suffered in his debut at Dallas Monday night. He's expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action, which should get him back on the court sometime in early December, right about the same time Lauri Markkanen is expected to return from his elbow injury.

So, what does Fred Hoiberg do now? Initially, you can expect Payne to replace Dunn in the starting lineup, with newly signed Shaq Harrison getting a look in the backup role. In case you don't know much about Harrison, he's an undrafted four-year player out of Tulsa, who spent most of the last two seasons in the NBA G-League. Like Dunn, Harrison is a physical 6'4" defense-first player who should be able to pressure some of the elite point guards the Bulls will face in the coming weeks. The front office showed their level of interest in Harrison's potential by signing him to a two-year NBA contract which includes a guaranteed salary for this season.

The Bulls also signed former Marian Catholic H.S. star Tyler Ulis to a two-way contract after he was released by Golden State in the final cutdown. Ulis started 58 games for Phoenix over the last two seasons, and is lightning quick in the open court. Problem is, he's generously listed at 5'10" which could create some serious issues at the defensive end.

And then there's always Arcidiacono, a Hoiberg favorite who's fundamentally sound, a solid defender and a decent outside shooter. Arcidiacono didn't play in Dallas Monday with Dunn back as the starter and it will be interesting to see how he's used with the coaching staff searching for answers at the position.

From my perspective, the Bulls' best option might be not going with a point guard at all in the starting lineup. Zach LaVine is on the hottest offensive streak of his young career, and he's most effective with the ball in his hands. LaVine played a lot of point guard during his rookie season in Minnesota, and he's more than capable of pushing the ball in transition.

Yes, I know having LaVine defend some of the high-scoring point guards around the league is not an ideal formula for success. The Bulls could move Justin Holiday to the shooting guard position, and see if he can match up defensively against opposing point guards. Again, not ideal.

The Bulls will be facing the likes of Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Steph Curry and Chris Paul over the next week and a half, and going without a true point guard might create defensive issues that are impossible to overcome. That's why you should expect to see Harrison take on a significant role in the upcoming games, since he's the only point guard currently available on the roster that has the physical skills to replicate in some fashion what Dunn brings on the defensive end.

Any way you look at it, the Bulls will be in survival mode over the next six weeks, trying to scratch out as many wins as they can until Markkanen and Dunn are healthy enough to get back on the court.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

Kelly Crull, Mark Strotman and Will Perdue react to the news that Kris Dunn will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: