Bulls

What's next for Joakim Noah, Bulls after season-ending shoulder surgery

joakim-noah-bulls-insider-0117.png

What's next for Joakim Noah, Bulls after season-ending shoulder surgery

Joakim Noah tipped once, then twice before yelling out in joy as he converted on a Jimmy Butler miss in the third quarter of a rousing Bulls comeback in Philadelphia, as they recovered from being down 24 for a win.

The next night, he yelled out in agony as his left shoulder popped out again after being tangled with JaVale McGee in the second quarter, with expletives not far behind, running to the locker room.

Surgery isn’t far behind now, as Noah will undergo a procedure to repair the dislocated shoulder, ending his season and possibly career with the Bulls as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The official prognosis is 4-6 months, the same timeline for Kevin Love last spring and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this season, which effectively ends Noah’s uneven, disappointing '15-16 year.

Noah had a few glimpses of being the impact player he’s been in years past, but with his role being diminished under Fred Hoiberg, he averaged a career-low in scoring with 4.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 22 games.

But his value always went beyond the numbers, as his intangibles had a tangible affect on his teammates for seasons on end.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“Seeing him on the table like that, kinda got 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.

And in the years since, Noah’s body began breaking down, culminating in his big blow.

Now it leaves the Bulls franchise in a position where they possibly had one good big too many to needing every single one if they hope to make a decent run through the postseason.

They had been gauging interest around the league on Noah, Pau Gasol and Gibson, according to league sources. According to an executive for a Western Conference team, the Bulls had been most aggressive with Gibson, who’s settled in at power forward and has an affordable contract ($8.5 million this season, $8.95 million in 16-17).

[MORE: Noah's injury produces somber tones for teammates]

They had been looking for a swingman but hadn’t received much traction, as trade activity league-wide has been down this season — as well as the lack of quality wings on the market as a whole.

Now, with Noah’s injury, only time will tell how the Bulls prioritize their personnel needs a month before the trade deadline.

But Noah’s priorities have to shift, for the first time in his career, from the Bulls’ needs to his own.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.