PHILADELPHIAJoakim Noahs left-ankle injury isnt as bad as some feared initially there was speculation that the gruesome injury, suffered in the third quarter of Friday nights Game 3 loss to the 76ers, was a fracture, but postgame x-rays were negative but the Bulls center does have a sprain and is doubtful for Sundays Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Most likely, hell be out tomorrow, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday afternoon following a film session at the teams hotel. I havent gotten the grade yet, but its doubtful. Well see tomorrow, though.
Thibodeau, in his typical fashion, said Noahs status is day-to-day and whether backup center Omer Asik is a game-time decision, and although most observers are counting the Bulls, down 2-1 in the first-round series, out with superstar Derrick Rose was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Game 1 and now Noah who morosely hobbled through the hotel lobby on crutches and wearing a cast on his ankle unlikely to return, the coach is sticking to the mantras hes consistently preached all season.
Like Ive said all along, we feel we have more than enough. Next guy up. Got to get the job done, he said. Injuries are part of the game. We have more than enough to win with. Weve got good, quality depth. Were down 2-1 in the series. Weve got to find a way to win tomorrow.
It happens. You deal with injuries. Next guy has an opportunity to rise up and thats the way we have to look at it, and thats the challenge we all face right now. The game tomorrow, weve all got to get ready and we have an opportunity to rise, and thats what we have to do, continued the coach, who downplayed comparisons to the Knicks team he was an assistant for in 1999, the last lockout-shortened NBA campaign, during which New York advanced to the NBA Finals after star center Patrick Ewing was injured in the conference finals. Obviously I think theres always disappointment when you lose and I think thats a good thing. I think that tells you that you have the right players. I think the big thing is how we respond, to have the determination tomorrow to get the job done and I want us to have greater fight tomorrow.
Though Asik is quietly considered one of the upper-echelon defensive centers in the league, the second-year pro and native of Turkey is a light scorer, to say the least, and isnt used to playing heavy minutes. Fortunately, Philadelphia is a smaller team with only one post player possessing the size of a true center in perimeter-oriented Spencer Hawes, so the Bulls might be able to get away with playing power forwards Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer in the pivot to match up with either rookie Lavoy Allen, a natural power forward, or veteran Elton Brand when he slides over to center, as well as All-Star small forward Luol Deng at power forward when Sixers reserve Thaddeus Young is in the game.
Omer obviously can handle that position, but Taj has played both positions, so it gives you versatility there. So, we feel like well be OK, Thibodeau explained. We still have three bigs and we also have Scal, so we feel like we have more than enough.
Omer, hes better offensively than hes given credit for because of his rebounding, offensive rebounding, and his screening, and hes also a very underrated passer, he continued. Hes not accustomed to playing the starters minutes, so thatll be a little bit of an adjustment, but Taj has played a lot, Carlos, we can extend his minutes some and then we have the ability to put Luol at the four also.
Thibodeau also discussed the process that led to Noah returning to Fridays contest early in the fourth quarter after first being injured in the third period.
He thought he could go. Sometimes you can get through it. Obviously he was struggling, said Thibodeau, who noted that he wanted to his team to commit a foul to stop the clock and make a substitution as soon as he noticed how badly Noah was laboring. He just twisted his ankle and he has to be cleared by Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi. Fred clears him and we give it a go. Of course, hes got to want to play. If he feels hes able to play, he shows Fred that he can play or thinks he can give it a shot, then you do so and then, if not, then you dont.
Im relying on Fred. The games going on and I ask him if he can go or not go, so thats usually how it works, he added. Most guys, you can tell whether they feel like they can go or not go, but you just rely on your medical staff for that stuff.