Banged-Up Bulls Need Bigger, Better Bodies For Battle

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2010

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 26: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center on February 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Trail Blazers 115-111 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The city of Chicago just let out a collective groan with the news that Joakim Noah will be sidelined three weeks as he deals with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Most NBA teams will deal with injuries at some point in their seasons, but right now for the Bulls, it seems like everybody is dealing with an injury.

In addition to Noah basically being shut down for the rest of March, forward Luol Deng sat out Monday's game and missed Wednesday's practice as he deals with a knee injury.

All-Star point guard Derrick Rose has gotten hurt in just about every one of the Bulls' last few games, having left Monday's contest after colliding with Hawks' guard Mike Bibby.

Rose returned, but the Bulls were blown out by Atlanta, 116-92.

Center Brad Miller also is nicked-up, and he, too, missed Wednesday's practice.

Add up those four players, and you're looking at a team missing it's two leading scorers (Rose and Deng), it's two leading rebounders (Noah and Deng), and one of your top options off the bench (Miller).

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Ouch, Bulls fans.

What's worse, eight of the Bulls' next 10 opponents own a .500 or above record. 

Going into battle without all your troops is never an easy task.

The Bulls will look for increased production from Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, and also from newcomers Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray.

Hinrich was a ghost Monday against the Hawks (two points, 1-for-9 shooting), but Gibson did his part, grabbing 13 boards and chipping in 11 points.

Head coach Vinny Del Negro would love to see Taj continue that type of play.

Both Warrick and Murray also reached double figures in scoring Monday, a good sign of life from the Bulls' bench.

The biggest wild card on the Bulls right now appears to be rookie forward James Johnson, who was thrust into the starting lineup in place of Luol Deng Monday.

Johnson played a season-high 24 minutes Monday, and produced nine points—his highest total since December 9.

Even if Deng and Miller are able to go for the Bulls, Johnson can provide a valuable big body in the paint for the Bulls.

With upcoming games against Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer, and Dwight Howard, Johnson will at least provide a body capable of absorbing six fouls.

The decision to shut down Noah is the right one—his future to the organization is too important to gamble on his health, when the team figures to be a first-round playoff knockout anyways—but the Bulls will certainly have their hands full in his absence.

The fifth-best rebounder in the NBA, Noah has been an unexpected hero of sorts to the Bulls this season.

Now, it's just a matter of getting the seven-footer healthy for the playoffs, and finding a few more heroes until he's ready.

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