Joakim Noah's Bulls future in doubt after injury

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CHICAGO — Joakim Noah likely has played his last game this season. Now the question is whether the two-time All-Star has played his last game for the Chicago Bulls.

Noah dislocated his left shoulder Friday and will undergo surgery. The team estimates the recovery period at four to six months, which means his season is probably over.

The 30-year-old Noah also is in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Before the injury, there was talk the team would explore dealing the eight-year veteran before the trade deadline.

Noah was moved to a reserve role by new coach Fred Hoiberg this season. He has been bothered by a variety of injuries the past two years and struggled on the court when healthy this season. He never seemed to embrace his new role and is averaging a career-low 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 21.9 minutes.

The Bulls are focused on adjusting to life without Noah for the remainder of the season.

"We had a little experience when Jo missed some time the first time it popped out," Hoiberg said Sunday. "Obviously, now it's different. We always knew that Jo would be coming back. This time, it doesn't appear that will be the case."

Noah initially injured the shoulder Dec. 21 against Brooklyn. An MRI at the time revealed a small tear and he missed nine games. Ge was playing his fourth game back on Friday when he became entangled with Dallas' JaVale McGee in the first half and dislocated the shoulder.

With his previous injuries, the Bulls were optimistic that Noah could return healthy and provide a spark. There's no such hope this time — which is a severe blow to the team's postseason hopes.

"It's a tough one to swallow," teammate Pau Gasol said. "Jo brings a lot to the table to our team, a lot of energy, great spirit, great competitiveness, intensity, so it's hard to accept the news. But it's one of those things that happen. It's unfortunate."

Without Noah, rookie power forward Bobby Portis will receive more playing time, but Hoiberg believes it will take more than one player to make up for the loss.

"Everybody's got to be prepare to fill in for what Jo gave us, which was a lot," the coach said. "He's our best low-post defender, one of our best playmakers, a guy that always generates ball movement when he's on the floor and his passion and energy. That's going to have to be picked up by the group collectively."

Noah didn't attend Sunday's practice and the details of his surgery have yet to be finalized.

The Bulls (23-16) have a tough upcoming schedule, which begins with a road game at Detroit on Monday and continues with a home game against Golden State on Wednesday and road games at Boston and Cleveland on Friday and Saturday.

"We have a tough stretch coming up; we understand that," Gasol said. "We have a lot of difficult games, but we have played better when the challenge has been bigger, so let's see if we can dig in and work as a unit and really take this challenge as an opportunity to prove what we're made of and how far we can get."


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