Joakim Noah's injury produces somber tones for Bulls teammates


Joakim Noah's injury produces somber tones for Bulls teammates

Eyes were low and voices were lower in the Bulls’ locker room as the mood was more somber than a regular-season loss called for, but as Derrick Rose said, Joakim Noah’s shoulder dislocation was “devastating.”

Anyone who saw it, heard it or caught the reaction on Noah’s face after his left shoulder got tangled up with Dallas Mavericks center JaVale McGee at the 9:41 mark of the second quarter immediately seemed to realize the ramifications.

“Yeah, it’s tough to lose a guy like Jo who does so much us. But other than basketball I hate to see that happen to a good person like that,” Jimmy Butler said. “He’s down, as he should be. It’s the game he loves, he wants to fight for this team. Just being out with the same injury or something like that, I don’t know exactly what it is, but he wants to be out there with us.”

Noah’s season is in jeopardy and perhaps, his emotion-filled eight-year tenure with the team that drafted him and city that embraced him is in doubt, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

A member of an NBA team's medical personnel familiar with the injury said to CSNChicago.com, "He'll be out awhile, the second time it pops out is not good. Whatever has healed has been injured again along with usually more stuff".

That seemed to be the tone for his teammates in the aftermath of the Bulls' 83-77 loss Friday.

“It hurt, it hurt, just knowing how hard he worked, how hard he wants to be on the court, how much he means to this team, it’s devastating,” Rose said.

[MORE: Fatigued Bulls fall to Mavericks, lose Joakim Noah]

Playing through injury has been a big part of Noah’s career in Chicago, as he became a symbol of inspiration for a fan base and symbolic for what the team aspired to be from an emotional standpoint has marked his time—thus the deflated reactions from his teammates, players who were thinking less of themselves and the subsequent modifications they’ll have to endure, but more about the person who’ll endure an uncertain present and future.

“Seeing him on the table like that, kinda got a flashback to when Derrick got hurt,” forward Taj Gibson said. “You don’t want to see your man go down like that. It is frustrating.”

Gibson was referring to Rose’s ACL tear in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs, the first serious injury that started Rose down this path and squandered what was then considered a strong chance at a title.

Noah was another reason for hope that year and his presence kept the Bulls afloat in injury-filled seasons since.

“You see a guy in all different kind of circumstances in eight years, guy you pride yourself with, especially in practice on a daily basis, he’s one of the emotional leader of this team,” Gibson said. “It hits you in the heart.”

No matter large Noah’s will and heart, the little facts that are known don’t favor him to this point.

Chicago native and Charlotte Hornets swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a separated right shoulder early in the preseason and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, with the expectation he’ll miss the entire season with his torn labrum.

Many will remember Cleveland’s Kevin Love had surgery on a dislocated shoulder during the first round of the NBA playoffs and he missed the remainder of the Cavaliers’ run to the NBA Finals, being away from basketball activity for 4-6 months.

“It didn’t look good but I don’t know,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’ll get an MRI in the morning and we’ll get a better idea of a timeframe. It looked like it popped out."

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

If the aforementioned timeframes hold, then it’s possible Noah misses the rest of the season with his shoulder injury, as well as opens the door to questions about whether the Bulls should’ve taken the surgical route sooner, when he suffered the shoulder strain on December 21.

It caused Noah to miss nine games and on his first game back, he tweaked the injury getting blocked at the rim by Washington’s John Wall, but stayed in the game. Noah will be a free agent this July and is in the midst of his worst statistical season, averaging 4.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 22 games, most of them coming off the bench in his new role, one he admitted was tough to embrace.

“I didn’t get a chance to talk to him,” Gibson said. “I went in right after halftime and we all checked on him. We don’t know the severity of it, but the look on his face, is crazy. Because we know how hard he worked just to get back to the team and how much energy he had before the game, he really wanted to play the game, he understands the circumstances, how tired guys was…”

Now Noah must embrace the possibility of a different kind of present: rehab with an uncertain future, be it in Chicago or elsewhere.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

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

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."