The last time Joakim Noah was playing through plantar fasciitis, John Paxson got into a heated altercation with then “coach” Vinny Del Negro. It severed whatever remained of the basketball czar’s relationship with the point A to point nowhere “coach,” and reminded everyone that you just don’t cross Pax when it comes to his players. As tough as Pax is, it’s impossible to imagine that he’d ever get into it with Tom Thibodeau, but someone needs to stop the maniacal coach before Noah’s feet fall off.
It’s admirable that Noah said he might skip the All-Star Game next Sunday, but he should be shut down right now. Like today. Give him a couple of weeks off and see how the foot responds to the only real treatment for the debilitating plantar fasciitis that the big man is again suffering from. And Monday night provides a perfect opponent for Thibs to realize that it’s beyond fine to not treat every regular season game like a game 7. Gregg Popovich treats the 82-game grind like any rational thinking person should… With caution.
Pop will risk fines if need be because he just doesn’t care. He wants his team to be as fresh and healthy as possible when April hits. Shit, he’ll sit Tim Duncan (who is injured now anyway despite several nights off), Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker if there was turbulence on the team plane. But unlike Thibs, Pop gets it. Why risk killing your players legs now, when more important games and challenges await?
Noah should be given this week off, allowed to experience his first All-Star selection, play sparingly like Luol Deng did (6 minutes) in last year’s ASG and see how his foot feels in a week. At 30-20, the Bulls are holding the 4th seed in the East and have far surpassed most expectations for this part of the schedule without their best player.
Pax won’t come down from his Bulls throne and pull Thibs’ tie or threaten the coach, but if a well thought out plan is in place for Derrick Rose’s return, why can’t the same rules apply to the other piece that figures to be on this team when the ’14-’15 season begins?
Noah’s too valuable and means too much to this team’s future to be risking further injury in a season that won’t end with another banner being raised to the top of the U.C. It would make sense to treat Noah on a game by game basis if he hasn’t already had issues with his feet. And it’s not like Noah’s in his 2nd season, he’s a seasoned veteran now that plays hard minutes for a coach that demands maximum effort on both ends.
The argument for playing Noah (and Luol Deng) around 40 minutes a night is that this is how All-Star’s are treated. They all play big minutes, and Noah (1oth in the league at 38.20 minutes per game) and Deng (1st in the league at 39.73 minutes per game) prefer to push themselves to the limit. One, that’s basketball stupid. Every player will say they want to play the full 48 because they’re insanely competitive by nature. Unless, of course, they’re Dwight Howard. That candy ass would go crying to his father every week if he played for Thibs.
Playing big minutes under Thibs isn’t like playing heavy minutes for another coach. Do you remember when Noah got benched earlier this season? Thibs demands a lot and there’s a reason the Bulls don’t have that extra gear come playoff time. The all out effort on defense and constant moving on offense takes it’s toll, I don’t care who you are. Common sense should prevail, and Noah should be shut down for at least the next week. But that won’t happen because tunnel vision Thibs only has his eyes set on Monday night’s Spurs game. If you ever question why I’m done with this coach (as good as he is X & O wise), this is another perfect example of shortsighted stupidity.