The heart, hustle and muscle of Joakim Noah is unquestioned, and his all-around game garnered an All-Star appearance in February.
But how will his injury woes impact his career? Will his lingering bouts with injuries prevent him from joining elite NBA centers?
This is a valid question, particularly because the past two playoff seasons have featured Noah's hurts and pains.
His injury struggles have occurred frequently enough that concerns regarding his long-term future are warranted. NBA fans are well aware of how injuries can completely derail or stunt a big man's career.
Ask Greg Oden. Or Andrew Bynum.
Could Noah be headed down a similar path? Is his current battle with plantar fasciitis a sign of things to come?
Truthfully, it's premature to conclude that his NBA trajectory is spiraling downward in a hurry. There's one main reason for this: He has avoided a major knee injury.
You don't need to be a doctor to know that knee injuries sound an alarm for large bodies. It is rare that a tall player returns to his old self after such a happening.
Consider Amar'e Stoudemire and his host of knee ailments. He clearly hasn't been the dominant, high-flying power forward that he once was since his plethora of hurts.
Noah's slew of injuries throughout his career possess much more hope in terms of recovery. He missed a chunk of games in 2010-11 due to a hand injury. In last year's playoffs, he sprained his ankle. Currently, he can't shake plantar fasciitis due to the season's grind.
None of these matters signal a significant red flag. These aren't major injuries that carry major implications. The plantar fasciitis issue is a relative worry, but resting over the summer should spark a steady healing process.
Things could obviously change, and Noah could encounter a career-threatening blow, or perhaps his plantar fasciitis never goes away.
But there's not enough evidence to forecast this. Quite frankly, the evidence is in favor of Noah shedding his injury woes because nothing has been ultra-serious. Because of this, there is reason for optimism in Noah's quest to solidify himself as a top-notch big man.
He simply isn't in a position where his forthcoming outlook is at great risk.This is primarily because he has avoided an extra-serious injury, namely something to a knee. He's in prime position to overcome his recurring wounds and embrace a lengthy, productive NBA tenure.
What makes this even more plausible is his heart and passion for the game. Some would argue that his ardor hurts him because he plays when he shouldn't and he doesn't know when to let off the gas. This is a reasonable argument, especially considering that he recently admitted that he came back too early.
However, he regrets this and stated, according to ESPN's Nick Friedell:
I'm upset at myself because I let this linger for a long time, and I have nobody to blame but myself. I just wish that I was a little bit smarter. I played games in the regular season that I probably shouldn't have played.
While he made this mistake, this likely won't repeat itself. He appears to have learned his lesson and will be much more sensitive down the road.
If he can couple his passion for the game with what he has learned from his fault, then his state of mind features the ingredients to shed his injury patterns. His passion provides the confidence to play without a fear of injury, while the intellect gained from his blunder tells him when to take his foot off the gas.
Noah's injury woes are concerning, but they're not at a level where we should question his career and whether or not he can join the ranks of the league's elite.
This could obviously all change in an instant if he sustains an unfortunate blow to a knee, but as of now, there's no reason to believe he can't be mentioned among the league's best centers.
Quite frankly, he already should be. Let's hope consistent health enables him to stay there.