Today, we were supposed to be assessing Jimmy Butler’s other-worldly, Jordanesque 53-point performance, where he led the Bulls to a victory against the league’s worst (by record) 76ers on Thursday night.
Instead, we are forced to evaluate Joakim Noah’s likely season-ending shoulder injury in the words of his teammates.
“It hurt, it hurt, just knowing how hard he worked, how hard he wants to be on the court, how much he means to this team, it’s devastating,” DRose said.
And probably his best friend on the team – Taj Gibson, “Seeing him on the table like that, kinda got a flashback to when Derrick got hurt. You don’t want to see your man go down like that. It is frustrating. You see a guy in all different kind of circumstances in eight years, guy you pride yourself with, especially in practice on a daily basis, he’s one of the emotional leaders of this team. It hits you in the heart.”
Over the past four years, as members of the team suffered their various injuries and ailments – ACL, torn meniscus, after-effects of a spinal tap, ankle sprains, back surgeries, you heard nothing from Jo but how the Bulls would fight through the adversity.
During his 2014 All-Star interview, Jo said: “We’re definitely the team that’s gone through the most in terms of adversity. And we’re showing a lot of fight and I’m really proud of being able to be a group that plays with heart.”
It does seem like the Bulls have suffered more than their fair share. Yet, what we love about them, is that (for the most part), they play with heart.
That Joakim, the “heart and soul” of the Bulls might be out for the season, or even worse, have played his last game as a Chicago Bull is heartbreaking.
To make myself feel better, I started thinking back to my fondest memories of Jo, and I would have to say the 2013 playoffs versus the Nets was my favorite. He single-handedly willed the Bulls to victory in that series – playing the entire time with plantar fasciitis. Remember the Bulls were without DRose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
Hoops Rumors has been reporting for weeks that the Bulls were “quietly shopping” their bigs – Jo, Pau and Taj – as the front court is crowded, with the rookie, Bobby Portis, plus Mirotic, and seldom-used Cameron Bairstow.
Then there’s poor Cristiano Felicio. You’ve probably never heard of him. The Bulls sent him to the D-League, specifically, the Canton Charge, then recalled him. He seems to spend all of his time on planes. He was dispatched to the Charge for what seems like the zillionth time on Friday, and now, he’s been recalled to join the Bulls again as of this morning.
No, there is no joy in Mudville.
It had been hitting me in the heart that the Bulls lost three games. And even worse, they almost lost to Philly. Then, hope springs, as they seemed to be faring well versus the Mavs last night, but after Jo went down, it was like the west coast trip when DRose got injured again in Portland – game over.
I was tweeting with some other Bulls fans before the Mavs game started about how you don’t hear much about Dunleavy, and yet, he’s critical to the Bulls success. He had back surgery this summer, and is still out. There’s talk of him being out the rest of the season. Now I guess Jo may be added to the list.
And yet there were bright spots recently, with Jimmy G Buckets and his record-setting performances, and E’Twaun Moore coming up big in Q4 and OT versus the 76ers. Speaking of ET earlier in the season, Drose said, “He’s in the right place. He knows the game, a great teammate, a great dude. I’m just glad he has the opportunity he has now.”
I had planned to voice my frustrations after the recent losses. But now, it’s all irrelevant. As we’ve said before, when DRose was the victim to the untimely injuries – this is bigger than basketball.
After another Bulls setback, in January 2014, when Luol Deng was unexpectedly traded Jo wouldn’t speak to the media for a while. When he finally did speak, Jo said:
“I feel when I come to the game and see the guys selling newspapers on the street; it’s cold outside. He sees me driving and he’s excited. He’s like, ‘Let’s go Bulls. Get it done tonight.’ I feel I play for that guy.”
“I look in the arena when the team calls a timeout and see this guy who looks this big jump up and down (in the upper deck, 300 level). That’s the guy I play for.”
The author of the article from which I pulled the two quotes above summed it up perfectly: “Deng or no Deng, Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose, healthy roster or injury-plagued docket, Noah won’t ever stop fighting.”
We know that Jo will always fight. And your teammates will fight for you, Jo. They’ve got your back. And so does Bulls Banter.
Get well Jo.