The Bulls are a disciplined team. Tom Thibodeau is praised for having his team come ready to play each and every single night and amidst a season full of injuries, they keep finding ways to win with the lineup that gets put out there. That speaks volume of the management team in place, the coaching staff, and the players. Derrick Rose has missed 16 of the Bulls 50 games this season, and the team doesn’t seem to be skipping a beat. At 40-10 they are primed to once again have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. (I realize I deemed this unimportant after last year’s series, but it’s better than not having it.)
That is why I am shocked at what happened last night to a team that is normally in full control. Late in the 2nd quarter just after picking up his first personal foul of the half, Joakim Noah received a technical foul for getting a bit mouthy with the referee. Noah proceeded to spike the ball in the referee’s direction along with a few choice words which resulted in a second technical foul and an ejection from the game. Normally I would not be one to make a big deal of something like this, especially from a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve like Noah. His emotions are bound to get the best of him once or twice during the grind of an NBA season. We always know what he is feeling, even sitting from the couch. Last night, however, is where he needs to know his surroundings, what is at stake, and what an ejection along with possible suspension could mean for this team heading down the stretch.
With the Bulls fighting to hold onto that top seed in the East while they continue to try and get healthy heading into the playoffs, this is exactly what they did not need. Joakim Noah needs to understand his team’s situation. Your starting point guard and defending league MVP is on the bench for at least another week trying to recover from a groin injury while your backup point guard CJ Watson continues to get healthier but with the condensed schedule, rest doesn’t come easy. Luol Deng is playing with a torn ligament in his left wrist, and could use some rest himself, but was forced to play 50 minutes last night in OT against Toronto. This will shorten the rotation a bit more if Noah is to miss time, making Omer Asik come in and log more minutes than he is used to. Omer is a solid defensive player off the bench, but he can’t be trusted to log big minutes and do what Noah is able to do. Noah’s presence on defense will be missed, and his offense had been showing signs of improvement over the past few months, though still nowhere near where I expected it to be at this point.
The Bulls have 16 games remaining in the season and they are still looking to improve and be at their best heading into the postseason. With their starting center now possibly missing a few games, getting better won’t be easy and as Coach Thibodeau said, they simply cannot have that at this point. This is a season holding on by a thread as the Bulls have dodged bullet after bullet with injuries, but losing a player for game(s) because of stupidity and unable to control emotion is simply unacceptable at this point in the season. It puts unnecessary extra wear and tear on guys that are already beat up. This is a team trying to win a championship and get the entire roster back together as postseason play begins. Joakim Noah talks about how badly he wants to win a championship. Last night’s actions were the complete opposite of a guy who knows what it takes to win a championship. Is that the reaction to expect when a call doesn’t go his way in a crucial playoff game? I expect this to be a singular incident where Joakim simply had a lapse of judgment, but as the season comes to a close, Joakim Noah needs to realize what is at stake and hold his emotions in check. Act like you have been here before.
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