NEW YORK — The Bulls are looking to have a Merry Christmas this year by avoiding giving the Knicks the present of a win. But what’s more important to the Bulls, and will be a continuous theme of pre-game discussion, is who will replace Joakim Noah while he’s out? The Bulls would very much like to avoid juggling players until he returns, and fans would very much like to hear the end of this question with a reasonable answer.
That answer, for the time being, is Kurt Thomas. The 15-year veteran has put together two really solid outings, and with the aid of a concussion, has outplayed Taj Gibson who was the original successor. “[I] just go out there and do what I do,” he said. “Play solid on the defensive end of the floor. Rebound the ball, really make the opposing team, the guys that I’m guarding, really work, and try to cover up the defense … When the opportunity presents itself on the opposite end of the floor, shoot the ball, shoot the ball with confidence and knock it down.” The 38-year old may not have years on his side, but Wednesday night he had the stats; Thomas had 7 rebounds and 4 points while playing 41 minutes against the Wizards. In his last two games, Thomas is averaging 8 ppg, and 7.4 rpg which is a lot more than any other possible suitor for the Noah replacement job has done.
“He has been doing it for 100 years,” Joked head coach Tom Thibodeau.
There’s nothing funny, however, about the situation the Bulls are in. Taj Gibson, despite suffering a concussion and missing one game, has totaled 9 and a half minutes on the court while scoring just 3 points. Gibson played a total of 31 seconds in Wednesday nights win in Washington. Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t like what he saw out of Gibson either.
Thank goodness for Thomas. The veteran is also quite familiar with the Knicks. He played a majority of his career there in the late 90’s to mid 2000’s, playing 530 games in a Knicks uniform. Thomas has bounced around the league and always seems to find himself on a good team; he’s been a part of 10 playoff teams and was a member of the ‘Fear the Deer’ Milwaukee Bucks team and has been to one NBA Final as a member of the 1998-99 Knicks. It’s safe to say the guy has experience and is still a very active player.
“He’s a vet,” said Carlos Boozer. “He’s been around for a long time. He’s been through a lot of battles before with the Knicks in the playoffs. He’s battle tested. That’s why he’s here. That’s why Tibs brought him in. He knew that if we needed a big to step in, he could be that guy to step in and give us big minutes. And he’s prepared for this, he’s been on teams before where he had to step up in Milwaukee…Kurt Thomas is a good player.”
Thomas is a much needed piece in the puzzle for the Bulls. Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are in every way amazing and are both playing absolutely lights out as of late, but they can’t carry this team all the time all by themselves. Luol Deng is good for a quarterly bail out every so often but he has yet to bail the team out of a loss. It’s a team effort, and the Bulls have basically had practice games against the Clippers, ‘Sixers, and Wizards and will now be fully tested by the Knicks. If the Bulls can pull of a Christmas Day win, while the entire world is focused on the Lakers-Heat match-up, then Chicago may be able to fly under the radar and really come up and bite teams in the rear. This is a dangerous team with deadly weapons of playoff caliber, they just need to figure out how to effectively use them Once that happens, watch out.