After only playing in just one preseason game in under just 20 minutes due to a groin injury, Joakim Noah is slowly working his way back to form.
After being limited to only 20 minutes in the season opener, coach Tom Thibodeau played the high-energy center 36 minutes in the Bulls 81-81 win over the New York Knicks on Thursday.
Noah finished the game with 15 rebounds, adding five assists and six points. He had a few positions late where Tyson Chandler beat him to spots for offensive rebounds and forced him into loose-ball fouls, but probably most importantly is the conditioning aspect that was feared would be an issue didn’t appear to be a factor afterwards.
Even with finishing just 2-for-7 from the field, his timing appeared to be better offensively than it was in the season opener in Miami when he fumbled passes and missed several easy shots near the rim.
“You saw how many plays he made in the first half, hitting guys on the break for layups and dunks,” Carlos Boozer said afterwards. “Obviously his rebounding is tremendous -- we need that, and his energy. He can switch on defense to guard all five positions. And obviously just his presence out there.
“Joakim is a defensive player of the year candidate every year.”
Though two games isn’t a big enough sample size to gauge how many minutes Noah will average – he averaged a career-high 36.8 last season – he says the groin shouldn’t be a reoccurring issue and physically he’s returning back to his usual comfort level on the floor. So it's easy to believe he won't be shooting 27 percent throughout the season.
“I feel real good. I think it’s just going to get better every game,” Noah said. “I feel like there’s still a lot of things that I can do better and it’s just going to come as the games keep coming. I think I’m just going to get better and better.”